Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone will go on trial on bribery charges in Germany, likely in late April, a court said Thursday.
The Munich state court said it decided to send the 83-year-old Ecclestone to trial following his indictment last May. He faces charges of bribery and incitement to breach of trust connected with a $45 million payment to a German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky.
Dates for the trial haven’t yet been set but proceedings are currently expected to start at the end of April, a court statement said.
Sentences in Germany for bribery range from three months to 10 years in prison.
Ecclestone’s German lawyers, Sven Thomas and Norbert Scharf, said in a statement that “the alleged bribery did not happen.”
“The accusations in the indictment based on Gribkowsky’s statement are unfounded and do not … add up to a coherent picture,” they added.
Gribkowsky was convicted in 2012 of taking the payment from Ecclestone in connection with the sale of a stake in F1. He was found guilty of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust, and sentenced to 8 years in prison.
Ecclestone has insisted that he did “nothing illegal.” He acknowledged during Gribkowsky’s trial that he made the payment but said he was pressured to do so.
Gribkowsky was in charge of selling German bank BayernLB’s 47 percent stake in F1 to investment group CVC Capital Partners in 2006.
In addition to taking the money from Ecclestone, Gribkowsky used Bayern LB’s funds to pay the F1 boss a commission of $41.4 million and agreed to pay a further $25 million to Bambino Trust, a company with which Ecclestone was affiliated, prosecutors said during the Gribkowsky trial.
In separate legal proceedings in London, German media company Constantin Medien – a former F1 shareholder – is suing Ecclestone and other defendants for up to $144 million, claiming F1 was undervalued by the Bayern LB deal.
Ecclestone said in November at the High Court in London that he made a payment to avoid being reported by Gribkowsky to authorities over his tax affairs.
“I made up my mind he needed to be kept quiet,” Ecclestone said, asserting that he was “shaken down” by Gribkowsky.