January 16, 2014 - 15:56 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone will be tried on bribery charges, a court in the German city of Munich has ruled, according to BBC News.
Ecclestone is accused of giving a $45mln (33mln euros) bribe to a German banker who is serving a jail sentence for receiving the payment.
Prosecutors allege that the payment was to ensure that F1 was sold to a private equity group of Ecclestone's choice. He admits paying Gerhard Gribkowsky, but denies bribery, saying he was effectively the victim of blackmail.
Ecclestone has been defending himself in a separate £90mln ($147mln) civil claim in London's High Court.
That case was brought by a German media company, Constantin Medien, who claim they lost out financially when the share of F1 belonging to German bank Bayern Landesbank was sold in 2006 to private equity group CVC.
Ecclestone and Gribkowsky, who was on the board of Bayern Landesbank, were accused in court of conspiring to deliberately undervalue F1 when it was sold, in order that Mr Ecclestone would retain control of the sport.
The F1 boss told the High Court that he made the payment because the banker had been threatening to reveal false details of his tax affairs.
A statement from Bavaria's district court said that a trial date for the criminal trial had not yet been set, but that proceedings were likely to begin in late April.
Ecclestone is charged with bribery and incitement to breach of trust and will be obliged to appear at his trial.
The court statement says that the payments made to Gribkowsky were dressed up as consultancy contracts, and that both their source and their destination were obscured using corporate structures.
The payments were made between July 2006 and December 2007, it says.
Ecclestone's German lawyer said on Thursday, Jan 16, that the alleged bribery never took place.
The chief executive of F1 has ruled the sport for almost four decades. He is the long-time commercial rights holder of F1, but sold off a majority of the ownership in the 1990s.