FORMULA 1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone reportedly struck a secret deal with the UK taxman to avoid a potential £1.2 billion bill.

A BBC Panorama investigation uncovered legal papers that apparently reveal the sport's billionaire promoter instead paid just £10 million to settle the case.

The nine-year probe by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs [HMRC] into the Ecclestone family's tax affairs centred around his ownership of lucrative TV rights to the sport, which he obtained in 1995.

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He moved the prized asset offshore and gave the rights to then-wife Slavica, who then transferred them to a family trust in Liechtenstein and sold them for a huge profit, avoiding UK tax.

While legal if Mr Ecclestone did not set up or control the trust, he could have faced a tax bill of up to £1.2bn if he did. However, the HMRC reached a settlement of £10m in 2008.

In unpublished transcripts of interviews conducted by a German public prosecutor, a lawyer who helped run the trusts, Frederique Flournoy, said: "The Inland Revenue offered to conclude the matter if we paid £10m. We decided to pay up."

Mr Ecclestone, on trial in Germany facing corruption charges, said he paid £50m tax last year and was "proud to make my contribution by paying my taxes here".