Germany – In an act of supreme irony Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, aged 83, has, in his own words idiotically, bought his way out of a conviction for the bribery of a former German banker as part of the sale of a major stake in the motor sport business eight years ago.
Mr Ecclestone offered German prosecutors the sum of $100-00 million or £ 60-00 million to settle the case. On Tuesday the district court in Munich confirmed the deal.
The Munich court said in a statement that $99m (£59m) would be paid to the German treasury and a further $1m to a German children’s hospice charity. The money will be paid within a week, it added, after which the trial will officially be abandoned.
His defence team insisted that he had not bought his freedom. They go on that their client has not been convicted of any offence.
Ecclestone, told PA: “The bottom line is it’s been three and a half years of aggravation, travelling, meeting lawyers, and God knows what else, so it is good it is out of the way.
“This trial has been going on for two days a week and it was going to go on until October. When you’re trying to run businesses it’s not easy trying to resolve things when you’re dealing with lawyers.
“In the end what has happened today is good and bad; the good is the judge more or less said I was acquitted, and they [the prosecution] really didn’t have a case.
Had he been convicted, and he had received a fine or prison sentence. He would have been disqualified from being a director of a limited company due to his being an unsuitable person to hold a directorship.
As to his admission that he was an idiot to settle, that too may come back to bite him on the ass. His admission of idiocy and the size of the payment could well give rise to a boardroom coup.
The truth is that he would have been a fool not have paid any price demanded to settle the case and that is exactly what he did.
We have no proof of this but we suspect that his legal team phoned up the prosecutors and asked for a deal. After some discussion it was decided to ask an outrageous amount. The sum of $100-00 million was demanded in the hopes that he would find it just that and go away. His legal team accepted after a brief consultation with Ecclestone.
Ecclestone obviously believes that there is still at least $100-00 million to be syphoned off into his pockets from Formula One before he dies. I wonder if the shareholders would agree?