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Bernie Ecclestone

Ecclestone denies $400m plea deal reports

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Bernie Ecclestone on Friday rubbished reports he is preparing to plead guilty in order to avoid jail.

As the F1 chief executive’s Munich trial began on Thursday, London’s Times newspaper reported that Ecclestone, 83, might reach a plea deal and exchange a custodial sentence for a massive $400 million-plus penalty.

“No, that’s total nonsense, rubbish,” the 83-year-old told Germany’s Bild newspaper, having returned to London from Germany.

“I do not want to buy my freedom. Why would I want a deal? I will tell the court the truth about everything that happened, and then it will be up to them to judge,” added Ecclestone.

The star witness in the trial will be Gerhard Gribkowsky, the already-jailed ex-banker who was convicted of receiving Ecclestone’s alleged bribe.

But Ecclestone said: “Mr Gribkowsky has already testified three times. I don’t think anything new will come from a fourth.”

He acknowledged, however, that if he is ultimately found guilty, his long and lucrative reign over formula one will be over.

“If I am convicted, it will be difficult to keep my job in formula one. That’s the problem,” said Ecclestone.

He will return to Munich next week.

“It was an exhausting first day,” said Ecclestone, referring to Thursday’s opening of proceedings.

“The judge, the prosecutors, my lawyers, they all speak German. I have an interpreter but it’s very difficult to follow everything in exactly the way it is said,” he explained.

Still, he found time on Thursday for typically light-hearted moments, like when he joked with the judge about his marital status.

“Why not (joke)?” Ecclestone said on Friday. “The judge, the prosecutors, they are all nice people who are just doing their jobs.” (GMM)

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