Q & A: The Ecclestone case

What was Bernie Ecclestone accused of?
The Formula One ringmaster was accused of paying German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky $US44 million ($A47.3 million) in 2006 and 2007 to ensure that shares in Formula One held by BayernLB were sold to Ecclestone's preferred bidder, CVC Capital Partners, now the sport's majority shareholder. Ecclestone admitted paying the money but said it was given to Gribkowsky to end blackmail threats that the banker would hand over information about Ecclestone's tax affairs. Gribkowsky was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in jail in 2012.

Why did the Munich state court drop proceedings against Ecclestone?
Under German law, the outcome of criminal proceedings – in terms of a punishment and in the halting of proceedings – can be negotiated in certain instances to avoid long and costly court cases. After months of inconclusive testimony by several witnesses, Ecclestone's lawyers asked the court last week to end the trial, saying that the prosecution had failed to build a solid case against their client and citing his advanced age. Negotiations then began on a settlement and a figure of $US100 million ($A108.2 million) was agreed after an offer of $US34 million ($A36.6 million) was rejected.

Why is the settlement so high?
Any settlement is calculated according to a defendant's financial means and takes into account the public interest and the gravity of guilt. As billionaire Ecclestone is so wealthy, a deal of $A108.2 million was agreed and he has a week to pay.

Who will receive the money?
From the $A108.2 million settlement, $A106.4 million will go directly to the German state, with the remainder to a German charity that looks after terminally-ill children.

Who else has benefited from this law?
Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl saw a prosecution case against him closed in 2001 over secret funding of the Christian Democratic Union under his leadership in exchange for payment of 300,000 deutschmarks (about $A161,000). Cycling champion Jan Ullrich agreed a €250,000 ($A359,000) settlement in a suspected doping case in 2006. Under German law, none of these settlements are viewed as implying guilt.

What would have happened to Ecclestone had he lost?
Ecclestone faced the prospect of a 10-year prison sentence if found guilty. His position as president and chief executive of Formula One Management would also have been terminated.

Is Ecclestone now legally in the clear?
Yes, he also won a High Court battle with media company Constantin Medien earlier this year. The London Telegraph

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