Bernie Ecclestone steps down from board of F1, will face bribery trial in Germany

Bernie Ecclestone has officially stepped down from his position on the board of directors of the Formula One empire, following an announcement that he faces a trial in a German court for bribery. According to a report from Autoweek, Ecclestone will retain his day-to-day responsibilities within F1.

You'll recall that Ecclestone was indicted in Germany on bribery charges six months ago for allegedly paying a German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, $41.6 million to deliberately undervalue shares in Formula One as part of a 2006 sale from Bayern Landesbank to a group called CVC Capital Partners. The sale to CVC would have allowed Ecclestone to maintain his stranglehold over the sport by preventing it from falling into the hands of German media group Constantin Medien. Ecclestone has claimed throughout the ordeal that the money paid to Gribkowsky wasn't a bribe, and instead, says that he was being blackmailed by the banker over some tax information.

Ecclestone stands accused of bribery and incitement to breach of trust, according to a statement from the Bavarian district court. The latter charge is because the court alleges the money paid to Gribkowsky was covered up as payments for consultancy contracts.

Constantin Medien has also brought a $147-million civil case against Ecclestone in his home country of Great Britain, claiming that the sale of F1 to CVC led it to financial losses.

A trial date has not been set yet, according to the BBC, although Ecclestone will be required to appear in court. We'll be sure to follow up on this story as more information becomes available.

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