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Ecclestone shrugs off German "payment" probe

Formula One commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone gestures as he is interviewed prior to the German F1 Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring circuit July 23, 2011.

ALEX DOMANSKI

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed making a payment to a former German banker who has since been charged with breach of trust and tax evasion.

However the 80-year-old Briton told a small group of reporters at the German Grand Prix on Saturday that he had made a statement to investigators and was not concerned about his position.

Former Bayern LB banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was arrested in January in relation to the 2006 sale of his bank's 48-per-cent stake in Formula One to current rights holders CVC and alleged payments to him of $50-million.

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"I made a payment," Ecclestone said. "Nothing to do with shares.

"What happened was at the time we thought the right thing to do. I was advised it was the right thing to do. I've been to the prosecutors I have given them the statement."

Ecclestone said he did not expect the German authorities to enter the paddock at the Nuerburgring to speak to him further.

"There is a lot of people under investigation and it is different being under investigation than being charged. What will happen now is that all the information will be given to the court to decide," he said.

"No, I'm not concerned. I wouldn't be here. Wait until you see the truth then you will know exactly how it was."

Ecclestone's decades-long control of the sport had been threatened by rumblings of a bid by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, currently embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal, but the F1 boss dismissed any rumours of a sale.

"I don't think there ever were (serious attempts at a bid). The first thing he should have done was to find out if the company was for sale, which he forgot to do," Ecclestone added.

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"I spoke to James (Murdoch) about them suggesting they are going to buy us. Rupert's been busy."

Ecclestone was speaking at a briefing about the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Oct. 9 following the country's Fukushima nuclear disaster in March.

MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner have refused to attend the motorcycle grand prix at Motegi, much nearer the nuclear power plant than Suzuka which Ecclestone believes is totally safe.

"The people who are running the race take the responsiblity. I don't think people would ask everyone to go there if it wasn't safe," he said flicking through a 24-page dossier examining radiation levels at Suzuka.

"We have to take advice from people that should know that there is no problem. If somebody said to me 'Look, we don't know maybe there'll be a problem', I'll tell you 100 per cent, I would advise people not to go but that is not what is being said.

"I'm going to buy 3,000 tickets to the race and invite 3,000 people."

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