Talks held on settlement of Ecclestone German bribery case

MUNICH, Germany, July 29 Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:54am EDT

MUNICH, Germany, July 29 (Reuters) - German prosecutors held talks on Tuesday with lawyers for Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone over a possible settlement of his bribery trial.

Ecclestone, 83, went on trial in Munich in April over allegations he bribed a former German banker as part of the sale of a major stake in the motor sport business eight years ago.

If convicted, the British billionaire could face up to 10 years in jail and would lose his longtime grip on a business he has built up over the last four decades.

"Public prosecutors and the defence are discussing the possibility of an agreement," said a spokesman for the German authorities. Exploratory talks opened on Tuesday and the prosecutors were prepared to continue them.

Under German law, judges, prosecutors and the defence can agree to dismiss a case or settle it with a light punishment, although terms for such an agreement are strictly defined.

Prosecutors have rejected a request from the defence to have the case dismissed on the grounds of a lack of evidence.

Ecclestone is accused of channelling $44 million to jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky in return for smoothing the sale of a major stake in the business to private equity fund CVC, which became the largest shareholder in Formula One in 2006.

The prosecution alleges that Ecclestone wanted CVC to take control as this meant he could stay on as chief executive of a business he had been instrumental in building.

Gribkowsky had been chief risk officer at state-owned bank BayernLB which became a major shareholder in Formula One following the collapse of the Kirch media group in 2002. (Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Mark Heinrich)