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Formula 1 boss Ecclestone indicted

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Mr Ecclestone's motor racing business is a lucrative global ventureGerman prosecutors have indicted Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone on a bribery charge.

The charge relates to a $44m (£29m) payment to a German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky of Bayern Landesbank. It was linked to the sale of a stake in F1.

Mr Ecclestone said he had paid Mr Gribkowsky to avoid a UK tax inquiry into the sale of Formula 1 in 2006, but denied the payments were bribes.

Mr Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in jail in Munich.

Speaking to the Financial Times on Wednesday, Mr Ecclestone said: "I have just spoken to my lawyers and they have received an indictment. It's being translated into English."

Asked how he responded to the indictment, he said: "We are defending it properly. It will be an interesting case. It's a pity it's happened."

Mr Ecclestone said it was "inevitable" that the indictment had been served. "If someone wants to sue you, they can do it and you have to defend it," he said.

In 2006, Gribkowsky was in charge of managing the sale of regional bank BayernLB's 48% stake in Formula 1 to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, which meant the firm owned most of the sport.

CVC has since reduced its stake in a series of deals.

In evidence to a Munich court in June last year, Gribkowsky admitted that prosecution claims he had corruptly received $41.4m (£26.6m) in bank commissions, and a large payment via a family trust from Mr Ecclestone, were "essentially true".

In his testimony, Mr Ecclestone said he had been worried that if he had not paid the money, Gribkowsky would have alerted the UK tax authorities to "things" that might have led to a tax inquiry.

"The only alternative was that the British tax authorities followed a case that would have been very expensive for me," said Mr Ecclestone at the time.

"The tax risk would have exceeded £2bn. I paid him to keep calm and not to do silly things."

source: BBC