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Ecclestone pays out $100m to stop trial

A GERMAN court yesterday halted a bribery trial against Bernie Ecclestone in exchange for his paying a $100 million fee, under the terms of a settlement agreed by prosecutors and the chief executive of Formula One.

Such an agreement is possible in German law, depending on the charges. It means 83-year-old Ecclestone preserves his innocence and is spared the prospect of a lengthy trial.

Judge Peter Noll told the court the suspicion of bribery against Ecclestone could not, by and large, be backed up in a trial. He gave Ecclestone one week to pay $100 million - $99 million to the state and $1 million to a children's charity.

"The trial is temporarily suspended until you've honoured your commitments and then it'll be permanently discontinued," Noll said. "If you don't honour your commitments, we'll continue the trial. I assume we'll only ever see each other again on TV."

Eccleston replied in English: "Thank you very much. I will honour my commitment."

He went on trial in April over allegations he paid a $44 million bribe to a former German banker to facilitate the sale of a major stake in the motor sport business eight years ago.

Ecclestone, a former used car salesman who became a billionaire by building the sport into a global money spinner over the past four decades, denied any wrongdoing.

The state prosecutor told the court earlier yesterdaythat due to Ecclestone's "advanced age" and "other extenuating circumstances", they supported the proposed settlement.

"The charges could not, in important areas, be substantiated," Judge Noll said.

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