German prosecutors have indicted motor-racing magnate Bernie Ecclestone on a bribery charge, but the 82-year-old has refused to resign as Formula One boss, despite facing a trial.
The 82-year-old could face a prison sentence after being charged by Munich prosecutors in relation to a $44 million payment he made to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky which was linked to the sale of the Formula One rights in 2006.
Ecclestone’s lawyers have until the middle of August to challenge the charges and a spokesperson for the Munich I state court has said a date for trial in the Bavarian capital is not expected to be set before mid-September.
But Ecclestone has said he has given no thoughts to resigning as the head of Formula One.
“I don’t see why I should do that, I will do what I have always done: keep working and do my job,” he told Thursday’s edition of German daily Bild.
“I won’t be doing anything else because of this.”
Ecclestone has been under investigation since Gribkowsky was convicted of taking an illegal payment when the Formula One rights were sold in 2006 deal.
Last month, Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in jail in Munich and Ecclestone has always denied bribing the German to avoid a British tax inquiry into the sale of Formula One, claiming he was blackmailed by Gribkowsky.
Having appeared at Gribkowsky’s trial, Ecclestone told the Munich state court he felt pressured into paying the cash because he was worried the banker would make unfounded allegations about his tax affairs to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs.
“I paid because he threatened to go to the Inland Revenue,” Ecclestone said at the time.
Having been at the top of Formula One for four decades, Ecclestone has repeatedly insisted he has done nothing wrong.
“We will defend ourselves properly, it is an interesting case, but it is a pity that this has happened,” he told the Fin-ancial Times.
If found guilty, Ecclestone could face a jail term.
“I am not guilty, but if I am sent to jail, I have to deal with it,” he said on the matter.
“I do not think I would particularly like it, but you have to deal with certain things.”
Having risen from a motor-racing enthusiast to the top of the Formula One empire, Ecclestone has already received support from inside the sport.
“Regardless of the situation, I think it’s absolutely right that he will continue,” said Christian Horner, team principal of world champion Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull.
“There is no one better in the role than Bernie – even if nobody has a real idea of exactly what the role involves.
“The deals, which he still does, are outstanding.
“Moreover, the main thing is he takes Formula One to new countries, which he does with passion and enthusiasm.”
Horner said the sport would suffer, should Ecclestone be forced to quit.
“It is in our interest that he does this job for as long as possible,” said the 39-year-old.
“After him, things will only get worse for our sport. Formula One is only what it is because of Bernie Ecclestone.
“Without him, we’d be in real trouble.”
Ecclestone’s rise began in the late 1970s when he bought Formula One’s television and marketing rights and has built up the sport into one of the world’s most profitable sports events.
He has always been a controversial figure.
There was a scandal in 1997 when it emerged the British government argued in Brussels for Formula One to be exempt from a ban on tobacco advertising after Ecclestone’s £1m sponsorship of the Labour party, which was later returned.
In 2005, Ecclestone was forced to apologise after repeatedly making sexist comments about women racing drivers: “women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances”.
And in 2009, he praised German dictator Adolf Hitler for being “able to get things done” and said close friend Max Mosley, son of British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, “would do a super job” as a British Prime Minister.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.