F1 supremo Ecclestone: 'The judge had no choice'
British expat resident of Switzerland and Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone praised capitalism after he settled his bribery trial with a $100 million payment to the Bavarian justice system.
In an interview with daily tabloid Bild newspaper on Wednesday, the 83-year-old said: “From where I’m standing, it didn’t look like the judges, in their opinion, had any other choice."
“It's certainly a bit unfortunate to pay so much money, but it would be worse to not have the money. I like this capitalist system," the resident of Gstaad in the canton of Bern added.
Ecclestone had been on trial since April on charges of paying a $44-million bribe to banker Gerhard Gribowsky of BayernLB bank to maintain his control over the Formula One empire.
“It wasn’t fun having to be in Munich for two, three days every week," Ecclestone said.
But he added: “I fell in love a bit with Munich and its people — I’d like to come back soon, perhaps to Oktoberfest.”
The bribery case against Ecclestone was dropped on Tuesday after prosecutors and the judge at Munich’s district court agreed to the $100-million settlement.
A German law, known as paragraph 153a, allows charges to be dropped against defendants if the court approves, provided the conditions imposed “serve the public interest”.
The law states the money must be paid to a charitable organization or the State Treasury.
In Ecclestone’s case, $1 million will be paid to a charity and the rest will go into state coffers.
Paragraph 153a is normally used to relieve the pressure on the justice system for relatively minor offences.
The sum paid by Ecclestone is thought to be a record since the law’s introduction in 1974.
While Ecclestone's penalty may seem steep, it would appear he can easily afford to shell out the sum.
His net worth has been estimated between $5 billion and $6.7 billion.
He has lived in the upscale mountain resort of Gstaad since 1990 but also maintains a home in London.