Formula 1 - Ecclestone's F1 powers curbed as bribery trial looms

Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone will continue to run the motor racing business despite a forthcoming bribery trial but will face greater control from the company board, Formula One said in a statement on Thursday.

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Bernie Ecclestone (Reuters)

Ecclestone, who denies wrongdoing, will step down as a Formula One director pending the conclusion of a trial scheduled to start in Germany in late April, but will run the business on a day-to-day basis.

"The approval and signing of significant contracts and other material business arrangements shall now be the responsibility of the chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and deputy chairman, Donald Mackenzie," the statement added.

Ecclestone was indicted last July in connection to an alleged 45 million Euro (£37m) bribe to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky eight years ago.

Judges in Munich have been deliberating ever since over whether there was enough evidence to take the matter to court.

Gribkowsky has already been jailed for accepting the payment after confessing to taking a bribe while he was a representative of German bank Bayern LB.

Ecclestone, however, has always insisted that he was innocent and denied that the payment was a bribe.

Instead, he says he was forced to pay the money because he had been threatened with having his family trust fund investigated by tax officials.

Following months of speculation about the Munich prosecutors' next move, spokeswoman Margarete Noetzel said that a trial would now happen and was likely to start in April.

The development has cast fresh doubts over Ecclestone's future as F1 figurehead, although the sport's owners CVC have consistently stood by him.

In a statement issued last year when it was announced that Ecclestone had been indicted, CVC said it was happy for him to carry on in his position - but said it would keep an eye on developments.

"The board will continue to monitor developments in this situation accordingly," said the CVC statement.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph last year, however, Ecclestone reckoned that CVC would seek to replace him if he was found guilty.

"[It] will probably be forced to get rid of me if the Germans come after me," he said. "It's pretty obvious, if I'm locked up."

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