When last we heard from our intrepid Formula One honcho and Muppet King friend Bernie Ecclestone, he was on trial in Germany on accusations that he bribed a banker. Now the trial is over because Ecclestone just ponied up $100 million to the court.
That's right — in Germany, you can literally buy your way out of a criminal trial. It just rarely happens in the middle of a trial, and no one has ever paid as much to get out of one as Ecclestone.
The F1 mogul, who stepped down from the sport officially but still runs it on a day-to-day basis, was being tried for allegedly bribing a German businessman eight years ago to ensure a large stake in F1 was purchased by a company he favored. That businessman was sentenced to eight years in prison for accepting bribes.
But Ecclestone will escape that fate under a proviso in German law that allows a defendant to pay to end a trial. From The Guardian:
A paragraph in the German criminal code allows for trials to be ended under conditions which are "appropriate for resolving the public interest in a prosecution," as long as the gravity of wrongdoing does not outweigh this.
In practice, wealthy defendants have in the past used this clause to buy their way out of trials. But no one has ever paid so high a sum as has been agreed with Ecclestone.
The BBC reports a former German justice minister criticized the deal, and the law, saying it allows rich people to go free while less fortunate people have to go through the rigors of a trial. She called on lawmakers there to "tighten" the loophole.
Bernie Ecclestone is unstoppable.
Photo credit AP