Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has been indicted on a bribery charge.

The 82-year-old is accused of making a $44m (£29m) payment to a German banker, linked to the sale of a stake in the sport.

But Ecclestone claims he was blackmailed into making the payment, defending his position on grounds that he was forced to pay Gerhard Gribkowsky to prevent himself from being exposed to a UK Tax enquiry.

It relates to the sale of a 47% stake in F1 in 2006 by Bayern Landesbank, and Gribkowsky was in charge of managing the sale to CVC Capital Partners, a private equity group.

Gribkowsky was jailed for eight-and-a-half years last year for accepting a $41.4m (£26.6m) bank commission from the Bambino Trust, which was run by the Ecclestone family, though he claimed he was paid to undervalue the shares.

Ecclestone, who has six weeks to respond, said to the Financial Times: "I have just spoken to my lawyers and they have received an indictment. It's being translated into English.

"We are defending it properly. It will be an interesting case. It's a pity it's happened."

The motor racing chief also said that defending himself in a potential tax fraud case would have cost him too much money, so instead paid Grinbkowsky to keep quiet.

"The tax risk would have exceeded £2bn. I paid him to keep calm and not to do silly things," he added.

The court will decide in mid-August whether to take the case to a trial, which could be heard by the middle of September.


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