LONDON — Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has been charged by German prosecutors with bribery in connection with the sale of a stake in the global racing series.
Ecclestone has been under investigation since a German banker was convicted of taking an illegal payment from him worth $44 million.
Ecclestone told the Munich state court he felt pressured into paying the cash in 2006 because he was worried that Gerhard Gribkowsky would report him to British tax authorities.
The court said in a statement Wednesday that Ecclestone had been charged with bribery and incitement to breach of trust in connection with Gribkowsky's management of BayernLB's stake in F1. It said the indictment was dated May 10 and has since been translated into English and delivered to Ecclestone and his lawyers.
"The lawyers have accepted an indictment," Ecclestone told The Associated Press. "It means they have to reply to the indictment, which they are strenuously doing."
Ecclestone has yet to read the indictment, which the court said he has until mid-August to respond to.
"They are alleging I bribed someone," Ecclestone said, while insisting he did "nothing illegal."
Gribkowsky was in charge of managing the sale of BayernLB's stake in F1.
Along with taking the money from Ecclestone, Gribkowsky used BayernLB's funds to pay the F1 chief a commission of $41.4 million and agreed to pay a further $25 million to Bambino Trust, a company with which Ecclestone was affiliated, prosecutors maintained during the trial.
Ecclestone told the court he deserved a commission for the sale, saying, "I did a very, very good job."
Gribkowsky, who largely admitted to the charges, was sentenced to 8½ years in prison after being found guilty last year of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust.
Ecclestone's German lawyers, Sven Thomas and Norbert Scharf, said they will soon submit a "comprehensive response" to the court, and the central issue in that response will be "the varying 'confessions' of Mr. Gribkowsky."
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