F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone has slammed bribery charges against him, claiming that he fell victim of blackmail. Reuters

F1 Boss Bernie Ecclestone has launched his defence against bribery charges, saying that he was blackmailed and that the information against him is "wrong, misleading and inconclusive".

Ecclestone was in court in Munich on trial for allegedly bribing a German banker in return for strengthening his position as kingpin of F1.

Ecclestone has dismissed the charges, saying that he fell victim to an elaborate blackmail scam.

In a statement read to the court, the 83-year-old business magnate said: "The alleged bribery never happened. The prosecution's claims are based on statements by Dr [Gerhard] Gribkowsky which are wrong, misleading and inconclusive."

Ecclestone is accused of paying a $44m (£26m) bribe to Gribkowsky, the former chief risk assessment officer at Bayern Landesbank, to facilitate the sale of the Bavarian bank's FI stake in F1 to its current owners, the private equity group CVC. Eccleston's main motivation was to retain his position as F1 chief executive following the sale.

However, Ecclestone has claimed that the money he paid to Gribkowsky was not a bribe but hush money, after the banker threated to disclose details about the F1 chief's tax affairs.

The F1 supremo's statement continued: "It was clear, he [Gribkowsky] wanted money. He said he had always protected me, but that there was a lot he could say. I often asked my lawyers: 'Is there a German word for blackmail?'"

Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight and a half years imprisonment in 2012 by the same judge who is ruling Ecclestone's case. He is expected to give evidence against Ecclestone at a later date.