Comment
0
Tweet
0
Print
RSS Feeds

F1 boss Ecclestone charged in bribery case

Wednesday - 7/17/2013, 6:49pm  ET

In this picture taken July 5, 2013 British Formula One Boss Bernie Ecclestone waits in the paddock before the second practice session at the Nuerburgring circuit in Nuerburg, Germany. Ecclestone says he has been indicted by German prosecutors for alleged bribery. Ecclestone has been under investigation since a German banker was convicted of taking an illegal payment from him worth 33.4 million euro (US $44 million) in connection with the sale of a stake in F1. Ecclestone told the Munich state court he felt pressured into paying the cash in 2006 because he was worried that Gerhard Gribkowsky would report him to British tax authorities. Ecclestone tells The Associated Press on Wednesday July 17, 2013 that his lawyers "have accepted an indictment. It means they have to reply to the indictment which they are strenuously doing." Ecclestone confirms that the prosecutors are "alleging I bribed someone" but says he did "nothing illegal." (AP Photo/dpa,Jens Buettner)

ROB HARRIS
AP Sports Writer

LONDON (AP) -- Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has been charged by German prosecutors with paying a $44 million bribe, placing his future as head of the motor sport series in doubt.

The 82-year-old British billionaire has been under investigation since a German banker was convicted of taking the payment from him in connection with the sale of a stake in F1.

The Munich state court said Ecclestone has until mid-August to respond to charges of bribery and incitement to breach of trust in connection with Gerhard Gribkowsky's management of the bank BayernLB's 47 percent stake in F1.

Ecclestone, the longtime commercial head of F1, acknowledged during Gribkowsky's trial in 2011 that he made the payment five years earlier but said he was pressured to do so.

Ecclestone's indictment was dated on May 10 and has since been translated into English and delivered to Ecclestone and his lawyers, the court said.

"The lawyers have accepted an indictment," Ecclestone told The Associated Press. "It means they have to reply to the indictment, which they are strenuously doing."

Ecclestone, who Forbes magazine reports is worth $3.8 billion, said he is yet to read the indictment.

"They are alleging I bribed someone," Ecclestone said, while insisting he did "nothing illegal."

Sentences in Germany for bribery range from three months to 10 years in prison.

CVC Capital Partners, the investment group that has owned F1's commercial rights since 2006, issued no direct comment Wednesday about the future of Ecclestone.

"Mr. Ecclestone has six weeks to provide a response to this bill of indictment prior to a decision being made by the court on opening proceedings," the board of Formula One Group said in a statement. "The board will continue to monitor developments in this situation accordingly."

Ecclestone was retained as chief executive of F1 by CVC after it took control of the sport following the takeover that sparked the bribery case.

Gribkowsky was in charge of selling BayernLB's stake in F1 to CVC.

In addition to taking the money from Ecclestone, Gribkowsky used BayernLB's funds to pay the F1 chief a commission of $41.4 million and agreed to pay a further $25 million to Bambino Trust, a company with which Ecclestone was affiliated, prosecutors said during the trial in 2011.

Ecclestone told the court he deserved a commission for the sale, saying "I did a very, very good job."

On Wednesday, he told the AP: "They wanted money. I was shaken down by the guys. It's happened in life before."

Gribkowsky, who has largely admitted the charges, was sentenced to 8
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.