Bernie Ecclestone smiles in court. Photo: DPA
Germany’s justice system faced ridicule on Tuesday after Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone paid a Munich court $100 million to drop bribery charges against him.
Financial settlements are allowed in German courts if all parties agree, but the scale of Ecclestone’s payment and the fact he was on trial for bribery has provoked anger in Germany.
Former justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger blasted the possible Ecclestone deal as “galling” and “not in harmony with the sense and purpose of our legal practices”.
She called on lawmakers to at least tighten – if not eliminate entirely - the loophole, which is designed to expedite cases before overburdened courts and whose sums are calculated based on the defendant’s financial means.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung lashed out at a deal in which “the briber is supposed to be washed clean with a spectacular payment”.
“The saying goes ‘money doesn’t stink’ but that’s wrong here: these millions stink to high heaven.”
And the top-selling Bild denounced “the bitter impression that not everyone is equal before the law”.
The irony of the payment was not lost on Twitter:
@TheLocalGermany I mean really, what a joke – so much for the German law system
— Patrick O Callaghan (@pocallaghan57) August 5, 2014
@TheLocalGermany so in Germany it is possible to bribe a bribery trial?
— Jim Crighton (@jimc130) August 5, 2014
If you’re ever accused of bribery, pray that the responsible place of jurisdiction is in Germany. #Ecclestone
— zedbeeblebrox (@zedbeeblebrox) August 5, 2014
Is it not ironic that in a bribery case you can buy your freedom #ecclestone
— Lee Merrien (@leemerrien) August 5, 2014
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