Ecclestone denies bribery allegations

Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone denied bribery allegations on Thursday when he went on trial in Germany in a case that threatens to break the Briton's decades-long dominance of the motor sport.

Prosecutors have charged Ecclestone, 83, with bribing banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to smooth the sale eight years ago of a stake in Formula One to private equity firm CVC.

They say that Ecclestone favoured CVC because it was committed to keeping him on as chief executive.

"I'm confident, the sun is shining," a dark-suited Ecclestone told camera crews jostling to film his entry into the Munich courtroom.

The former used-car salesman, who became a billionaire by building motor racing into a global money spinner over the past four decades, is fighting to save his job and his reputation.

He faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

As the trial began, his lawyers issued a brief statement, confirming that he denied the accusations and would fight to clear his name.

"The alleged bribery never happened. The prosecution's claims are based on statements by Dr Gribkowsky, which are wrong, misleading and not conclusive."

The prosecution, in a 24-page statement, told the packed  courtroom that Ecclestone channelled $44 million to former BayernLB banker Gribkowsky for having helped to safeguard his position as head of Formula One.

Ecclestone, in a dark suit, listened through an interpreter as his lawyer read a lengthy statement in German to the court,  setting out his own version of events surrounding the 2005-6 sale of Formula One.

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