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Formula One

Ecclestone steps down from F1 board

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone will go on trial on bribery charges in Germany, likely to take place in late April.

Last updated: 18 Jan 2014 15:42
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Bernie Ecclestone in 2011 as he arrives at the courtroom in Munich [AFP]

Bernie Ecclestone has stepped down from the board of the company which runs Formula 1 following his indictment on bribery charges in Germany.

But the 83-year-old will continue to run the business on a day-to-day basis, Delta Topco said in a statement.

The Munich state court said it decided to send the 83-year-old Ecclestone to trial following his indictment last May.

He faces charges of bribery and incitement to breach of trust connected with a $45 million payment to a German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky.

Dates for the trial haven't yet been set but proceedings are currently expected to start at the end of April, a court statement said.

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

Ecclestone's German lawyers, Sven Thomas and Norbert Scharf, said in a statement that "the alleged bribery did not happen".

"The accusations in the indictment based on Gribkowsky's statement are unfounded and do not ... add up to a coherent picture,'' they added.

$45 million payment

Gribkowsky was convicted in 2012 of taking the payment from Ecclestone in connection with the sale of a stake in F1. He was found guilty of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust, and sentenced to 8½ years in prison.

Ecclestone has insisted that he did "nothing illegal".

He acknowledged during Gribkowsky's trial that he made the payment but said he was pressured to do so.

Gribkowsky was in charge of selling German bank BayernLB's 47 percent stake in F1 to investment group CVC Capital Partners in 2006.

The indictment alleges that Ecclestone and Gribkowsky agreed on the $45 million payment in May that year and sought to cover up its source and recipient; and that the money was paid between July 2006 and December 2007.

Gribkowsky had previously pushed through the payment of a commission of more than $41 million to Ecclestone on the grounds that he "had in his hands the evaluation of the Formula One share and, with that, the sale price" it adds.

In separate legal proceedings in London, German media company Constantin Medien, a former F1 shareholder, is suing Ecclestone and other defendants for up to $144 million, claiming F1 was undervalued by the BayernLB deal.

Ecclestone said in November at the High Court in London that he made a payment to avoid being reported by Gribkowsky to authorities over his tax affairs.

"I made up my mind he needed to be kept quiet'' Ecclestone said, asserting that he was ``shaken down'' by Gribkowsky.

Ecclestone was quoted in an interview with Germany's Handelsblatt business daily published earlier Thursday as saying that he would have no choice but to appear at a trial in person. He added that he likes Munich, "a beautiful city".

"I made up my mind he needed to be kept quiet" Ecclestone said, asserting that he was "shaken down" by Gribkowsky.

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AP
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