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Bernie Ecclestone heading for $100m deal in bribery case: reports

Date
Settlement nigh: Bernie Ecclestone.

Settlement nigh: Bernie Ecclestone. Photo: Reuters

Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone is heading for a $US100 million settlement to halt his bribery trial in Germany, local media reported at the weekend.

The 83-year-old Briton upped his offer to secure a deal, according to reports which said if it went ahead it would the biggest of its kind.

The Munich court, where the trial is due to resume on Tuesday, has told witnesses scheduled to give testimony this week not to bother to turn up.

Ecclestone went on trial in April on charges of paying a $US44 million (€33 million) bribe to a BayernLB bank executive for help in maintaining his four-decade grip on Formula One.

He increased an offer to pay the Bavarian authorities $US100 million to settle the case from an initial $US36 million last week, according to the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The settlement, which is allowed in German criminal cases if the prosecution and aggrieved parties agree, should mean that Ecclestone retains his control of the multi-billion-dollar sport.

This has been welcomed by Niki Lauda, the former Formula One world champion who is now non-executive president of the Mercedes team leading this year's championship.

Lauda said it would be a "disaster" if Ecclestone were to lose control, according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Ecclestone built up Formula One during his time in charge, according to Lauda, who said he was also speaking for Mercedes.

"He is the only one who knows everything - the business, teams' problems. He has everything in his head. He is the link between the teams and the investors."

Media reports said Ecclestone had personally negotiated the deal with prosecutors in Munich on Friday.

Ecclestone is accused of paying German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky $US44 million in 2006 and 2007 to ensure that shares in Formula One held by BayernLB were sold to Ecclestone's preferred bidder, CVC Capital Partners of Britain, now the sport's majority shareholder.

The Formula One magnate has denied any wrongdoing, but he could have faced a jail term of up to 10 years if found guilty.

Ecclestone admitted paying the money but said it was handed over to Gribkowsky to end blackmail threats that the banker would hand over information about Ecclestone's tax affairs.

Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight and half years in jail in 2012.

CVC Capital had said that if Ecclestone were convicted then he would be removed from his position as president and chief executive of Formula One Management.

AFP

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