SPORT

F1 Boss Bernie Ecclestone Appears In German Court Over Bribery Charges (PHOTOS)

24/04/2014 10:45 BST | Updated 24/04/2014 10:59 BST

Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has appeared in court in Germany for the start of his trial on bribery charges.

Eighty-three-year-old Ecclestone is accused of giving a €33m bribe to a German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, to ensure a stake in the F1 business was given to a preferred company. The F1 CEO admits paying the money but denies it was wrong. Gribkowsky is currently serving a jail sentence for receiving the payment.

bernie ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone (second from left) faces a possible 10-year prison sentence if convicted

Earlier this year, Ecclestone won a high court battle in London against a German media company in a case related to these payments.

In spite of that success, he was forced to step down as director of F1 parent company Delta Topco although he maintained the day-to-day running of the sport and has been dismissive of the accusations against him as the trial has neared. In January he told journalists that the claims were "complete nonsense", adding that "Everybody on the board is more than a million per cent supportive. They just want me to get on with doing what I always do.

"The minute the court case is over then I'll be back on the board again."

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Bernie Ecclestone Trial Starts In Munich

Ecclestone has previously claimed he was being "shaken down" by Gribkowsky, who was at the time employed as the chief risk officer at Bayern LB, the German bank overseeing the sale.

Gribkowsky was imprisoned in June 2012 for eight and a half years after being found guilty of breach of trust, tax evasion and receipt of corrupt payments.

Prosecutors in Gribkowsky's trial claimed he sold the stake without updating its valuation in return for bribes disguised as consulting contracts.

Ecclestone has admitted making the payment to Gribkowsky, but claims he did so because he had been threatened with blackmail.

Addressing the claims, Ecclestone said: "I know I'm not guilty. That's for sure. Now whether I get convicted is another story.

"But all the (English) lawyers say this (going to trial) should never, ever have happened, and the German lawyers are saying the same thing, that there is no case."

A bullish Ecclestone also said in February that the case would not even come to court but that claim has now been proved wrong.

Ecclestone has run F1 for nearly decades, transforming the sport into a global commercial success with grands prix held on five continents.