Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone faces up to 10 years in jail if he's found guiltyGetty

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has told a court that the £26m payment he made to Gerhard Gribkowsky was supposed to buy the German banker's silence.

Ecclestone said he funnelled the money to the BayernLB bank chief risk officer to prevent him from revealing details over his tax status.

He claims Gribkowsky was prepared to fabricate details about his finances to British authorities in a move that would have threatened his reputed £2.6bn fortune, Reuters reported.

The 83-year-old faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of bribery and aiding and abetting a breach of trust in relation to payments.

Gribkowsky was jailed in 2012 for eight-and-a-half years for accepting £26m in bribes between 2006 and 2007 from Ecclestone's family trust, Bambino. The money, German prosecutors claim, was to "smooth over" a lucrative deal for almost half of F1.

Prosecutors argue the payment was effectively a sweetener for Gribkowsky's BayernLB bank to sell the 47% it owned of F1 to CVC Capital Partners, a private investment fund that it is alleged would have kept the British billionaire as the motor sport's supremo.

The trial, which is being heard only two days each week to allow Ecclestone to travel across the globe to watch F1, continues.

Background

Gerhard Gribkowsky
Gerhard Gribkowsky was jailed for accepting Bernie Ecclestone's millionsReuters

Gerhard Gribkowsky was jailed in 2012 for eight-and-a-half years for accepting $44m (£26m) in bribes in 2006 and 2007 from Ecclestone and his family trust Bambino.

German prosecutors claim the huge transfer was to "smooth over" a lucrative deal for almost half of F1.

Ecclestone, 83, is alleged to have wanted Gribkowsky's BayernLB bank to sell the 47% it owned of F1 to CVC Capital Partners, a private investment fund.

It has been claimed the supremo wanted the transaction to go through so he could consolidate his own position as chief executive of the sport. Ecclestone denies the payments were fraudulent.

CVC eventually paid $820m (£504m) for the stake in 2006, but Ecclestone claims the multi-million dollar payments he funnelled to Gribkowsky were to gag the banker, who he said threatened to make false claims about the billionaire's tax status, and were not bribes.