Ecclestone defense seeks deal to end bribery trial

MUNICH (AP) — Prosecutors and lawyers for Bernie Ecclestone are in talks about a possible deal to end the Formula One boss’s bribery trial in Germany.

The 83-year-old Ecclestone went on trial in Munich in April, charged with bribery and incitement to breach of trust. The charges involve a $44 million payment to banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who is serving an 8 1/2-year sentence for taking the money.

Ecclestone denies wrongdoing and says Gribkowsky blackmailed him.

His defense team called on Tuesday for proceedings to be closed, citing a lack of evidence that Ecclestone was criminally responsible and asserting that the proceedings were a strain for their client. He has been running Formula One while attending court sessions in Munich twice a week.

The defense team said damage to Munich-based bank BayernLB, on whose behalf Gribkowsky was selling a stake in F1, wasn’t evident but offered to pay the bank 25 million euros ($33.6 million), news agency dpa reported.

Under German law, prosecutors can agree to drop a case in exchange for conditions such as a fine or community work, so long as “the gravity of guilt” does not stand in the way.

The Munich state court said that talks between the two sides weren’t concluded on Tuesday, but both prosecutors and the defense say they will continue.

A court session that had been scheduled for Wednesday was called off after the one witness who was scheduled to clear refused to testify, the court said. The trial resumes next Tuesday.

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