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German court to accept Ecclestone payment to end bribery trial

Aug 5, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

F1 Grand Prix of Germany Getty Images

Bernie Ecclestone’s bribery trial will end, as the head of Formula One has offered up $100 million U.S. for that ending – this has been identified by a district court in Munich, and state prosecutors plan to accept.

Reports last week indicated this was possible for Ecclestone to pay his way out through a legal out clause, explained a bit further below.

This will end the trial that began in April and has gone on throughout the summer. Ecclestone will be found neither guilty or innocent on the charges.

The trial all stems from Ecclestone’s being accused of paying jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky of $44m for the BayernLB bank to keep Ecclestone as an F1 executive and for CVC Capital Partners to take the sale of F1’s commercial rights at an undervalued price. Though the payment was accepted, Ecclestone denied this was a bribe.

But the out clause to allow Ecclestone to pay his way out of this case refers to a provision in German law.

The BBC reported the quote of an experienced lawyer, Franz Bielefeld, to the Spiegelonline news website. Bielefeld explained to that outlet that this proviso, known as Paragraph 153a, was not just applicable to commercial trials, but could be invoked throughout the court system.

Further clarification here via The Guardian, which explained of the “get-out clause:”

“A paragraph in the German criminal code allows for trials to be ended under conditions which are “appropriate for resolving the public interest in a prosecution,” as long as the gravity of wrongdoing does not outweigh this.”

NBC Sports Group F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton said the decision is due to the intricacies of the German legal system:

Ecclestone, now 83, will be able to continue running the sport for the foreseeable future; however, he’s not clearly out of the woods. As my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith notes, a sale of the CVC Capital Partners group is on the horizon.

Though the trial may now be over, the political intrigue will continue to roll on.

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