Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone was indicted by German prosecutors on bribery charges, raising questions about his continued leadership of the international racing series, according to media reports Wednesday.
The indictment was not unexpected. For months there have been reports that German authorities were investigating Ecclestone for alleged bribery in the case.
The probe was in connection with $44 million Ecclestone paid in 2006-07 to a banker who was helping with the sale of an ownership stake in Formula One. The banker later was sentenced to prison in connection with the events.
Ecclestone reportedly acknowledged in court that he made the payment but only because he was pressured to do so. The 82-year-old billionaire told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he did "nothing illegal."
His lawyers were preparing a "comprehensive submission" to contest the allegations with a regional court in Munich, the Wall Street Journal reported.
It remains to be seen whether the indictment affects the management of Formula One, including its ability to sell and maintain the corporate sponsorships that are a pillar of its financial support.
The series conducts a 19-race season around the world -- including the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas -- with what many consider the most technologically advanced cars in motor racing.
Ecclestone told Bild, a German publication, that "I'll do what I've always done: Keep working and doing my job. For me this situation hasn't changed anything."
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