الجمعة , يونيو 12 2020

F1 boss Ecclestone offers court deal

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, 5 Aug 14Bernie Ecclestone has dominated the F1 business for decades

German prosecutors say they would accept an offer of $100m (£60m) from Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone to end his trial on bribery charges.

The Munich state court is expected to agree to the offer later on Tuesday.

The 83-year-old billionaire went on trial in April, charged with bribery and incitement to breach of trust.

He is accused of paying a German banker 33m euros (£26m; $44m) to ensure that a company he favoured could buy a stake in F1. He denies wrongdoing.

Mr Ecclestone will be in court for the decision. If found guilty he could have faced a 10-year jail term and the end of his decades-long dominance of motor racing.

A BayernLB banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, was allegedly paid by Mr Ecclestone to ensure the F1 stake was bought by a company that he favoured, so that he would remain in charge of the sport.

Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in 2012 for accepting bribes.

Mr Ecclestone says the payment was given to Gribkowsky after the banker threatened to make false claims about the F1 boss’s tax status.

The Munich court is expected to announce its decision at about 13:00 local time (11:00 GMT).

Prosecutors said Mr Ecclestone’s advanced age and other mitigating circumstances gave grounds to accept the $100m offer.

Legal get-out clause

Under German law defendants can in certain circumstances “buy” termination of a trial.

The legal proviso exists in order to ease the burden on the courts and to deal with cases where reaching a judgment could prove difficult.

An experienced lawyer quoted by the Spiegelonline news website, Franz Bielefeld, said the proviso, known as Paragraph 153a, was not just applicable to commercial trials, but could be invoked throughout the court system.

It would mean that Mr Ecclestone would not be pronounced either guilty or innocent.

Germany’s former justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger of the Liberal FDP party, criticised use of the loophole, saying it was “not just bad taste – it’s really insolent”.

She said it allowed rich people to go free, whereas the less well-heeled could face prison.

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