Formula 1 boss appears in court as bribery trial begins

Formula 1 boss appears in court as bribery trial begins

PanARMENIAN.Net - Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has appeared in court at the start of a trial on bribery charges in Munich, BBC News reported.

He is accused of giving a $45mln bribe to a German banker to secure the sale of a stake in the F1 business to a company he favored.

Ecclestone admits paying Gerhard Gribkowsky, who is serving a jail sentence for receiving the payment, but has denied any wrongdoing.

He continues to run the F1 business on a day-to-day basis despite the charges.

To alleviate his workload, however, Ecclestone has stood down from a number of F1-related positions until the case concludes.

Asked by a journalist outside the court whether he was confident of victory, he replied: "I'm confident the sun is shining."

German prosecutors allege that he bribed Gribkowsky, who was on the board of Bayern Landesbank, to ensure that F1 was sold to a private equity group of Ecclestone's choice.

The allegation is that by securing the sale of the stake to a company Ecclestone favored, he would remain in charge of Formula 1 and its commercial rights, broadcast payments and sponsorship deals.

The payments were made between July 2006 and December 2007.

He admits paying Gribkowsky, but says he was effectively the victim of blackmail. The 83-year-old Briton has said the banker had been threatening to reveal false details of his tax affairs.

If convicted, Ecclestone - one of Britain's richest men who transformed Formula 1 into a lucrative sport watched by 450 million TV viewers globally - could face up to 10 years in jail.

Gerhard Gribkowsky has been found guilty of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust and is serving an eight and a half year prison sentence.

Ecclestone testified during Gribkowsky's trial in 2011, and the former German banker is expected to be the main witness during the F1 chief's trial, which is scheduled to last until September.

In February, Ecclestone won a civil case in London's High Court brought by a German media company, which claimed it lost out financially when the share of F1 belonging to German bank Bayern Landesbank was sold in 2006 to private equity group CVC.

While the judge rejected a damages claim from Constantin Medien against the F1 boss, Ecclestone was ordered to pay $4mln in legal fees.

The chief executive of Formula 1 has ruled the sport for almost four decades, turning it into a huge global commercial success. He is the long-time commercial rights holder of F1, but sold off a majority of the ownership in the 1990s.

CVC senior management have previously said that Ecclestone would not be about to remain in charge if he was found guilty, even if he avoids a prison sentence.

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