Germany: Formula One Boss Settles Bribery Case with US$100 Million Settlement
The bribery trial of racing tycoon Bernie Ecclestone ended this week several hours after prosecutors told the Munich court they would accept a US$100 million payout from him, reports Deutsche Welle.
Ecclestone, the 83-year old British CEO of Formula One racing who amassed a fortune of US $4.2 billion, went on trial in April after German prosecutors accused him of paying a US $44 million bribe to former German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky. The banker helped in the sale of Formula One’s commercial rights to “CVC Capital Partners” at an undervalued price.
Ecclestone admitted to Munich District Court in April that he did transfer funds to Gribkowsky, but denied wrongdoing, according to Deutsche Welle. Gribkowsky was sentenced in 2012 to eight years in prison for brokering the sale of the commercial rights and for evading taxes on the payment he took from Ecclestone.
Prosecutors cited Ecclestone’s age and other circumstances as grounds for accepting the settlement offer.
Court spokesperson Andrea Titz told reporters that the ruling was issued because the evidence presented made a conviction unlikely. Ecclestone, who had faced a 10-year sentence, left the court a free man.
Judge Peter Noll gave Ecclestone a one-week deadline to pay US $99 million to the state and US $1 million to a children’s charity, reports Reuters UK. The judge said that if the settlement is not paid, the trial would recommence. Ecclestone told the judge that he would honor his commitments.
According to The Local, a financial settlement is permissible in German criminal cases if the prosecution, the court and the plaintiff all agree.
Some Germans, including former Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, have wondered if the rule allowing for the settlement is an unfair loophole in the criminal system.
“In my eyes, the law and justice should not be bargained with,” she said in an interview with the Deutschlandfunk radio station. “Not only does this have a bad aftertaste; it’s really a joke.”