A German judge has formally served Bernie Ecclestone with an indictment investigating allegations of bribery, the Formula One president and CEO has confirmed.
As reported by CNN, the British businessman faces an inquiry that links to the jailing of former F1 chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky, a German banker who was recently convicted of tax evasion and being in possession of illegal payments from Ecclestone. Gribkowsky told prosecutors he accepted a bribe of $44 million from the Brit, a claim that was originally denied by the F1 boss.
German prosecutors have continued the investigation and deemed it necessary to serve the 82-year-old with an official indictment. Ecclestone recently changed his story and suggested he was pressured into paying the money in fear of Gribkowsky taking matters to HM Revenue and Customs.
Ecclestone’s legal team confirmed the charge and strongly object claims of illegal wrongdoing from Gribkowsky, whose previous statements have been cited to bring about the allegations, according to Ecclestone's lawyer Sven Thomas.
Ecclestone has acknowledged and responded to the indictment, per the CNN report:
I have just spoken to my lawyers and they have received an indictment. It's being translated into English.
We are defending it properly. It will be an interesting case. It's a pity it's happened.
The motorsports overseer will now regroup with his legal team and launch a detailed response to the Munich court across the next couple of weeks. Such a case couldn’t arrive at a worse time for Ecclestone, who is currently attending a London court meeting to prove he didn’t undersell the F1 broadcast rights to CVC.
The alleged bribery claims confirm a rumbustious summer for F1. With previous claims against Ecclestone and Pirelli’s quartet of tyre blowouts at the British Grand Prix, the sport is facing a year of vast change.