F1 boss Ecclestone pays to end bribery trial
A German court has agreed to end the bribery trial of Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in exchange for a $100m (£60m) payment from him.
Mr Ecclestone's offer was based on an existing provision in German law.
Earlier on Tuesday German prosecutors accepted the offer from the 83-year-old billionaire who dominates motor racing.
He went on trial in April, accused of paying a German banker 33m euros (£26m; $44m) to ensure that a company he favoured could buy a stake in F1.
He denies wrongdoing.
If found guilty he could have faced a 10-year jail term and the end of his decades-long dominance of motor racing.
A BayernLB banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, was allegedly paid by Mr Ecclestone to ensure the F1 stake was bought by a company that he favoured, so that he would remain in charge of the sport.
Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in 2012 for accepting bribes.
Mr Ecclestone says the payment was given to Gribkowsky after the banker threatened to make false claims about the F1 boss's tax status.
Prosecutors said Mr Ecclestone's advanced age and other mitigating circumstances gave grounds to accept the $100m offer.
Legal get-out clause
Under German law defendants can in certain circumstances "buy" termination of a trial.
The legal proviso exists in order to ease the burden on the courts and to deal with cases where reaching a judgment could prove difficult.
An experienced lawyer quoted by the Spiegelonline news website, Franz Bielefeld, said the proviso, known as Paragraph 153a, was not just applicable to commercial trials, but could be invoked throughout the court system.
It would mean that Mr Ecclestone would not be pronounced either guilty or innocent.
Germany's former justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger of the Liberal FDP party, criticised use of the loophole, saying it was "not just bad taste - it's really insolent".
She said it allowed rich people to go free, whereas the less well-heeled could face prison.
Source: BBC News