Ecclestone trial halted after F1 boss agrees to $100 million settlement

Judge Peter Noll told the court the suspicion of bribery against Ecclestone could not, by and large, be backed up in a trial.

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He gave Ecclestone one week to pay $100 million – $99 million to the state and $1 million to a children’s charity.

“The trial is temporarily suspended until you’ve honoured your commitments and then it’ll be permanently discontinued,” Noll said. “If you don’t honour your commitments, we’ll continue the trial. I assume we’ll only ever see each other again on TV.”

Ecclestone, 83, replied in English: “Thank you very much. I will honour my commitment.”

Ecclestone went on trial in April over allegations he paid a $44 million bribe to a former German banker to facilitate the sale of a major stake in the motor sport business eight years ago.

Ecclestone, a former used car salesman who became a billionaire by building the sport into a global money spinner over the past four decades, denied any wrongdoing.

The state prosecutor told the court earlier on Tuesday that due to Ecclestone’s “advanced age” and “other extenuating circumstances”, they supported the proposed settlement.

“The charges could not, in important areas, be substantiated,” Judge Noll said. He added that any other charges against Ecclestone that remained were not so serious as to warrant the continuation of the trial.

Ecclestone’s lawyers applauded the settlement after the court heard more than 100 hours of testimony. “A conviction of Mr. Ecclestone could not be expected with any likelihood,” his lawyers said in a joint statement.

They also dismissed the suggestion that Ecclestone had bought his way out of the trial.

“Through this abandonment, the presumption of innocence in favour of Mr. Ecclestone remains intact … The monetary compensation is geared to his income and financial situation.”

Private equity group CVC, the largest shareholder in Formula One with a stake of 35 percent, has said it would have fired Ecclestone if he were found guilty.

The state prosecutor added that during the course of the trial it was becoming increasingly clear that the bribery charges would be difficult to prove.

GERMAN LAW

If he had been found guilty, the British billionaire could have faced up to 10 years in jail, although a prison term would have been unlikely.

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.

A spokeswoman for the Munich court, Andrea Titz, said a settlement did not mean there was an admission of guilt.

“With this type of ending … there is no ruling on guilt or innocence of the defendant,” she told reporters. “He is neither acquitted nor judged – rather this is a special type of ending a procedure which is in theory available to all types of cases.”

Ecclestone is accused of channelling cash to jailed BayernLB banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to smooth the sale of a major stake in the business by the bank to private equity fund CVC, which became the largest shareholder in Formula One in 2006.

Ecclestone was accompanied at the trial his wife, Fabiana Flosi, who watched from the spectator section of the court.

Despite his age, Ecclestone attends almost every Grand Prix and remains central to the sport’s commercial success. He has always dismissed talk of retirement and has no obvious replacement ready to take over when he does finally quit or get forced out.

The German law is intended to ease the burden on courts of hearing relatively minor cases and to spare first-time offenders a criminal record. The sums agreed under the settlement are often paid to the state or charity organisations. According to German broadcaster ARD, the procedure was used by ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl in 2001 to end a trial for accepting illegal party donations and by ex-defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to prevent charges of copyright infringement in his dissertation. Former cyclist Jan Ullrich also paid to halt a German investigation into doping charges.

(Reporting by Joern Poltz; Writing by Erik Kirschbaum, Alexandra Hudson and Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Crispian Balmer, Larry King)

ICC to review Anderson-Jadeja decision

The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday announced it was considering whether to appeal against the decision to clear England’s James Anderson and India’s Ravindra Jadeja over their recent spat.

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World cricket’s governing body said it “has received and is considering” the written decision of judicial commissioner Gordon Lewis, who found the pair not guilty of breaching the ICC’s code of conduct following a disciplinary hearing in Southampton on Friday.

“As per Section 8.3.2 of the ICC Code of Conduct, ICC chief executive David Richardson has seven days – until Sunday, 10 August – to consider whether to lodge an appeal against the decision.

“The ICC will make no further comment on this matter until the decision has been made.”

India charged fast bowler Anderson and England counter-charged allrounder Jadeja over an incident on the second day of the drawn first Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on July 10.

Anderson and Jadeja, batting at the time, exchanged words as the players left the field during the lunch break.

It was alleged this had escalated into a more serious disagreement, beyond public view, when the players reached the privacy of the pavilion.

But Lewis, a retired Australian judge, found Anderson not guilty of a level-three offence of “abusing and pushing” Jadeja, who had his 50 per cent match-fee fine for a less serious level-one offence rescinded.

Anderson could have been banned for up to four Tests if he had been found guilty and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has expressed disappointment with the decision to clear him.

BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel told the Indian Express: “Yesterday (Monday) night, we have written a letter to the ICC. We told them that we are not happy with the decision.

“We have written about the flaws which we find in the process, and also about why there is a need to appeal against this order.

“BCCI has no right to appeal on the Jadeja-Anderson case now. But, ICC, who are the prosecutor, still have the right.”

The ICC has confirmed its decision to review the case will not prevent Anderson appearing in the fourth Test, which begins in Manchester on Thursday. The five-match series is tied at 1-1.

FA tightens rules on head injuries

“If there has been a confirmed or suspected period of loss of consciousness, the player must be removed from the field of play, and not be allowed to return,” an FA document said.

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It said professional players should also undergo baseline neuro-psychological testing at the start of each season and not be allowed to return to action for six days after suffering a head injury causing unconsciousness or concussion.

Head injury charities branded Tottenham Hotspur “irresponsible” last season when goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was allowed to play on despite a heavy blow to the head sustained in a challenge with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku during a Premier League match.

The incident raised question marks about clubs’ handling of head injuries and sparked a debate in the House of Commons about the dangers to sportsmen and women while world players’ union FifPro said the Lloris incident was “unacceptable”.

The new guidelines, designed to clarify the club’s responsibilities, were welcomed by brain injury association Headway.

“We are pleased to see the football authorities have addressed the serious issue of concussion,” said Peter McCabe, chief executive of Headway.

“The measures announced today are a significant step forward in the protection of footballers at all levels and therefore are warmly welcomed.

“The guidelines at all levels, from FIFA to the FA and Premier League, have to date been insufficient and ineffective, as demonstrated by numerous high-profile examples.

“The debacle with Spurs’ Hugo Lloris, who was allowed to overrule his club doctor and return to the pitch having sustained a serious head injury in collision with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, was truly shocking.

“Since then, there have been numerous other examples of FIFA and FA guidelines being breached, including two incidents in the World Cup.”

Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira and Argentina’s Javier Mascherano were both allowed to continue playing during the World Cup despite clear signs of concussion while Germany’s Cristoph Kramer appeared to lose consciousness in the final and was only substituted several minutes later.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

Keeper Navas ready to fight for Real starting spot

“If I am here it’s not because I bought a lottery ticket,” Navas told a news conference on Tuesday after passing his medical, signing a six-year contract and being presented to fans at the Bernabeu stadium.

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“I feel capable of taking on these challenges,” added the 27-year-old, whose performances at the World Cup prompted the world’s richest club by income to lure him to the Spanish capital for a reported fee of 10 million euros (10.01 million pounds).

“My work is my foundation and when you work hard you feel ready to take on any kind of challenge.

“I am very calm. What I have to do is train hard and be available to the technical staff and when I get my chance be ready for it.”

The arrival of Navas has created something of a headache for Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, who is now spoilt for choice for keepers with three top-class performers vying for a place.

Casillas was first choice in the Champions League and the King’s Cup last season, while Lopez, whom Spanish media have said may de discarded, played in La Liga, continuing an awkward rotation policy begun under Ancelotti’s predecessor Jose Mourinho.

Navas said Casillas, 33, and the 32-year-old Lopez had been an inspiration to him during his career.

Known as the “Falcon of Costa Rica” for his agility, Navas spent his first year in Spain playing for second-division Albacete before Valencia-based Levante came calling in 2011.

“I think they (Real) will have more choice now,” Navas told reporters.

“The best in the world are at Real Madrid and I hope everyone will feel comfortable and there will be nothing negative.”

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer)