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Ecclestone makes US$100m payment to close bribery case

Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone has paid an agreed US$100 million (S$125 million) to end his German trial on bribery charges, a court said on Wednesday (Aug 13), officially closing the case against him.

MUNICH: Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone has paid an agreed US$100 million (S$125 million) to end his German trial on bribery charges, a court said on Wednesday (Aug 13), officially closing the case against him. The regional superior court in the southern city of Munich said the British billionaire had lived up to his side of the controversial deal to pay the sum by Tuesday in exchange for throwing out the case.

"After the payment of the agreed amount of $100 million to the recipients (the Bavarian state treasury and the German Children's Hospice Foundation), the court ... ceased criminal proceedings" against Ecclestone, its spokeswoman said in a statement. She added that the decision may not be appealed.

Ecclestone went on trial in April accused of paying a US$44-million bribe to a Bavarian state bank executive for help in maintaining his four-decade grip on Formula One.

A settlement is allowed in some German criminal cases if the prosecution, the aggrieved parties and the court agree, but the Ecclestone deal has stoked fierce criticism. Media commentators blasted "cash-till justice" in which the wealthy can escape lengthy trials and "buy" their own form of justice.

The judges said they based their August 5 decision in the Ecclestone case on a determination that a conviction was unlikely given the evidence presented. The US$100 million accord is believed to be the largest of its kind in German history.

Ecclestone, 83, rejected criticism of the accord in an interview with Germany's top-selling Bild newspaper and praised the capitalist system. "It's certainly a bit unfortunate to pay so much money," he was quoted as saying. "But it's more unfortunate not to have the money."

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