Bernie Ecclestone walked out of court on Tuesday with the corruption scandal that threatened to end his F1 reign and leave him in jail effectively over. If he is able to get $100 million together within a week, all charges will be dropped. "Yes," 83-year-old Ecclestone told the judge when asked if he can meet the deadline. "Thank you very much, I will honor my commitments," he added.
The financial settlement was agreed last Friday between the British billionaire, his lawyers and state prosecutors, and on Tuesday the judge in the bribery trial accepted it. "The proceedings will be temporarily suspended with the agreement of the prosecution and the accused," judge Peter Noll said. $99 million will go into the Bavaria state's coffers, and $1 million to a children's charity.
Prosecutors said they agreed to the deal due to Ecclestone's "advanced age" and "other extenuating circumstances". And the judge said the arrangement was made because the trial so far had not supported "the suspicion in major parts, and more evidence-taking isn't likely to yield other results". Ecclestone's lawyers insisted in a statement that Tuesday's outcome is not a "deal nor a settlement, even less so a 'buying out'."
Rather, it shows that a "conviction of Mr Ecclestone could not be expected with any likelihood". The fact that a corruption saga ends with a history-making payment to the court, however, is obviously highly controversial, particularly with companies like Mercedes parent Daimler operating under strict compliance rules.
Daimler president Dieter Zetsche had said on Sunday: "If someone is acquitted in court, does not go to jail and can continue working, I welcome that. This applies to Bernie Ecclestone especially, with the great contributions he has made to formula one." Zetsche added that despite his advancing age, Ecclestone can play "a decisive role in formula one into the future," he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. (GMM)