Bernie Ecclestone Trial: Latest Details and Comments on F1 Chief's Bribery Case

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2014

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 05:  F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone walks into the paddock for final practice ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit on July 5, 2014 in Northampton, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Drew Gibson/Getty Images)
Drew Gibson/Getty Images

Updates from Wednesday, Aug. 13

The Associated Press indicate Bernie Ecclestone has made the $100 million payment, (via ABC News):

A German court says Bernie Ecclestone has made the $100M payment he agreed to last week, meaning the bribery case against the Formula One boss is formally closed.

The Munich state court on Aug. 5 approved an agreement between Ecclestone's lawyers and prosecutors to end the trial. It gave the 83-year-old Englishman a week to pay the money — $99 million of which goes to the state and the remaining $1 million to a German organization that helps terminally ill children.

Updates from Wednesday, Aug. 6

Bernie Ecclestone has labelled himself an "idiot" after paying £59 million to settle his bribery trial.

The financial settlement allows Ecclestone to get on with running the sport of Formula One, but the Press Association, via ESPN F1, quotes Ecclestone saying:

In the end what has happened is good and bad - the good is the judge more or less said I was acquitted, and [the prosecution] really didn't have a case. So I was a bit of an idiot to do what I did to settle because it wasn't with the judge, it was with the prosecutors. Anyway, it's done and finished, so it's all right. I'm content, it's all fine. This now allows me to do what I do best, which is running F1.

Updates from Tuesday, Aug. 5

Bernie Ecclestone, the head of F1, will pay a reported £60 million to end his current bribery trial, according to BBC News.

The settlement figure had initially stood at £20 million, but has tripled according to Tuesday reports:

A German court has agreed to end the bribery trial of Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in exchange for a $100m (£60m) payment from him.


He went on trial in April, 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.

The ruling means he walks free from the district court in Munich and can continue running the sport. It also means Mr Ecclestone is found neither guilty nor innocent.

F1 expert Craig Slater insists the settlement only came about because the case was weak against Ecclestone:

The case had been going well for him and it's important to emphasise that this would not be happening unless the judge thought that the case was pretty weak against Bernie Ecclestone.

Had there been any great gravity of guilt then this potential outcome would not be possible.

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Formula One head Bernie Ecclestone is now willing to pay nearly £20 million to have the bribery case being lodged against him dropped. The offer was made to BayernLB bank in Munich, Germany but no deal has been reached.

Daniel Johnson of The Telegraph reports the 83-year-old racing chief views the ongoing trial, which is slated to last into October, as "highly burdensome." The article notes there are still a couple hurdles before the charges could be dropped:

However, according to Bloomberg, Ecclestone has offered the money to BayernLB, the bank at the centre of the bribery trial, not Munich's state prosecutors. A court spokeswoman has revealed the potential deal is still being discussed.

Because it is a criminal case it is for the judge, Peter Noll, to decide whether the charges against Ecclestone should be abandoned, not BayernLB.

Also, the report explains the widespread belief is that Ecclestone is already preparing to pay Munich's regional court more than £260 million to avoid the 10-year sentence if found guilty. His offer to drop the case is less than eight percent of that total.

The trial began in April. The extended timeline for its completion is due to the longtime chief's various commitments as he continues to play a key role in Formula One. It's an issue that dates back to the high-profile sale of ownership stakes transferred between BayernLB and CVC.

A report from The Guardian earlier in the month about the case included comments made by Ecclestone about the $44 million in payments to former BayernLB chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky.

"I was a little sarcastic when I asked, would 50 million help you?" Ecclestone said. "It was the cheapest insurance policy I have ever seen."

MUNICH, GERMANY - MAY 13: Bernie Ecclestone, the 83-year-old controlling business magnate of Formula One racing, attends his trial for bribery with his lawyer Sven Thomas (L), on May 13, 2014 in Munich, Germany. Ecclestone is accused of bribing BayernLB b
Pool/Getty Images

He also admitted paying Gribkowsky, but only after he became aware there might be false claims made against him to British authorities about his tax status.

Autoweek passed along comments from testimony of another witness, who claimed the leader of F1 tried to avoid being mentioned as part of the payment: "Ecclestone didn't want his name to appear in the process," the witness said.

There was a delay in the case back in May due to the chief's illness. Andrew Maitland of Motorsport reported lawyers presented information stating he wouldn't be able to attend:

After two hours, the judge agreed to the adjournment until Wednesday, and told Ecclestone he appeared tired.

"I'm ok," Ecclestone replied.

But a court spokesperson told SID news agency that Ecclestone was examined by doctors and a medical certificate was issued.

Looking ahead, it's unknown whether his latest reported offer will be enough to satisfy the bank and the courts. If not, the case is expected to continue at a snail's pace for around three more months.

The Telegraph report states Ecclestone still views the charges against him as "highly questionable."

More information will be provided as it becomes available.


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