25 Apr 2014

Formula One boss Ecclestone denies bribery at German trial

9:02 am on 25 April 2014

The Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone denied bribery charges at the start of a trial in Germany that threatens to break his decades-long dominance of motor racing.

Prosecutors accuse the 83-year-old Briton of bribing banker Gerhard Gribkowsky by channelling $NZ 51 million to him in return for smoothing the sale of a stake in Formula One to private equity firm CVC eight years ago.

They say that Ecclestone favoured CVC as the new owner because it was committed to keeping him on as chief executive of the business.

The former used-car salesman, who became a billionaire by building motor racing into a global money spinner over the past four decades, is fighting to save his job and his reputation.

He faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Ecclestone maintains that he was the victim of coercion by Gribkowsky.

He said Gribkowsky was threatening to make damaging claims about his tax affairs that could have cost him and his family much of their fortune.