Ecclestone denies bribery as trial begins in Munich

Friday 25th April 2014, 17:17 by TF1T Staff 

Bernie Ecclestone and his legal team have denied all charges of bribery during the first day of his Munich trial on Thursday.

The 83-year-old is accused of paying jailed banker Gerhard Gribkowsky £26 million ($44m) to ensure Formula 1 was sold to a preferred bidder, CVC Capital Partners, which was favoured by Ecclestone.

The trial is expected to last until September, with hearings taking place during two days a week to allow Ecclestone time to continue running the sport, despite him standing down from the board earlier this year.

Ecclestone's lawyers opened the hearing with a statement denying any wrongdoing.

"The alleged bribery never happened. The prosecution's claims are based on statements by Dr Gribkowsky, which are wrong, misleading and not conclusive."

Should he be found guilty, he could either spend 10 years in prison or be ordered to pay a £250m ($420m) settlement fee. In either scenario, he risks losing many millions more through potential investigations into F1's finances and his Bambino trust fund.

Whilst Ecclestone is still in charge of F1, it's more than likely he will be removed from the position in the coming months. A report in the Times claims a legal firm has advised CVC that it cannot continue operating with Ecclestone at the helm.

Meanwhile a source close to the company's board said: "It's over [for Ecclestone]. In truth, it has been over for a while, but Bernie has been allowed to continue as the face of the sport until this legal advice, which was devastating."

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