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Business Ethics

Ecclestone defense seeks settlement in bribery case

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is seeking a settlement with German prosecutors who accuse him of bribery. Ecclestone's lawyers are said to have offered a sum of several million euros for the charge to be dropped.

A settlement in the bribery case against Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone may be imminent, a court in Munich, Germany, said Friday.

Ecclestone, 83, faces charges of channeling $44 million (32.7 million euros) to a German banker at state-owned lender BayernLB to smooth over a deal between the bank and private equity fund CVC, which acquired a major stake in the motor sport business in 2006.

"It is possible that there will be a settlement," a district court spokeswoman told the Reuters news agency, adding that witnesses scheduled to testify next week had been told not to show up.

Ecclestone's lawyers met with prosecutors on Tuesday but no final agreement has been reached. The trial resumes next Tuesday and both sides have said they will continue the talks.

Ecclestone's lawyers said their client had offered to pay BayernLB 25 million euros ($33.5 million) to facilitate a settlement. Under German law, such a payment does not guarantee the end of criminal proceedings.

Prosecutors have alleged Ecclestone pushed for CVC to gain control because he knew the fund would let him stay on as chief executive.

Ecclestone has maintained he was blackmailed by the BayernLB banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, to pay the money lest the German spread false rumors about his tax affairs. He has said he paid Gribkowsky as an "insurance policy."

cjc/uhe (Reuters, AP)

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