Ecclestone to go on trial in April

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IOL mot feb6 Ecclestone AFP Bernie Ecclestone.

Munich, Germany - A German court has told lawyers it plans to begin the bribery trial of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone on April 24, a judicial spokeswoman in Munich said on Wednesday.

Ecclestone, who might be jailed if he were to be convicted, will be required to attend court on all of the 26 likely hearing days, but will be at liberty to go when the court is not in session.

Ecclestone, 83, is accused of paying a 44-million-dollar kickback in 2006 to the chief risk officer of a German bank to ensure that the Formula One business was sold to a new owner the Briton favoured. Under German procedures, a draft schedule of trial dates is subject to change if key lawyers say it causes a clash in their diaries. Courts do not sit for five weekdays in a row, but space out the days.

The court spokeswoman said the schedule would be finalized after the parties had commented on it. The risk officer at bank BayernLB, Gerhard Gribkowsky, has been serving a jail term of eight and a half years for taking a bribe from Ecclestone. He was convicted by the same court that will try the motor-racing boss.

Ecclestone has repeatedly said he did nothing illegal when he gave the money to Gribkowsky. Legal experts say the charge of bribing a public official may fail if Ecclestone argues he was ignorant of the fact that Bayern LB was a state-owned and state-run bank.


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