Updated: Thursday, 16 January 2014 19:06 | By Agence France-Presse

F1 chief Eccclestone's graft trial in Germany to start in April

Formula One commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone is expected to go on trial on bribery charges in Germany in late April, a Munich court said on Thursday.

F1 chief Eccclestone's graft trial in Germany to start in April

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is pictured at the F1 Singapore Grand Prix on September 19, 2013 - by Philippe Lopez

He was charged last July in relation to a $44 million (32 million euro) payment he made to former German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky which was linked to the sale of the Formula One championship rights in 2006.

"According to current plans, the trial is set to start at the end of April," the Munich regional court said in a statement.

The 83-year-old motor-racing magnate has repeatedly denied he did anything wrong.

He was been under investigation since Gribkowsky was convicted of taking an illegal payment when the Formula One rights were sold in a 2006 deal.

Last June, Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight and a half years in jail in the southern German city of Munich. Ecclestone has always denied bribing Gribkowsky, claiming that the German had blackmailed him.

Having appeared at Gribkowsky's trial, Ecclestone told the Munich state court he felt pressured into paying the cash because he was worried the banker would make unfounded allegations about his tax affairs to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs.

"I paid because he threatened to go to the Inland Revenue," Ecclestone said at the time.

Having been at the top of Formula One for four decades, Ecclestone could face a jail term if convicted.

Ecclestone's rise began in the late 1970s when he bought Formula One's television and marketing rights and has built it up into one of the world's most profitable sports events.

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