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German court delays decision on Ecclestone bribery case

Bernie Ecclestone arrives at the world premiere of Rush at a cinema in Leicester Square, central London, September 2, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Mel
Bernie Ecclestone arrives at the world premiere of Rush at a cinema in Leicester Square, central London, September 2, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Mel

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A decision on whether Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone will stand trial on bribery charges is likely to be delayed until next year, a German court said on Friday.

Ecclestone's lawyers plan to submit more statements related to the case and an imminent staffing change at the court will add to delays, the court in Munich said in a statement.

Sven Thomas, a lawyer in Germany for the British billionaire, said he welcomed the extra time being taken by the court to reach its decision.

He said his firm handed about 250 pages of documents to the court three weeks ago.

"There's a bit more coming, but not as much as that," he told Reuters.

Ecclestone, 82, was charged in July with bribing a German banker to smooth the sale of a stake in the motor racing business to private equity firm CVC eight years ago.

The court said at the time a decision whether to proceed with a trial was not expected before mid-September.

Ecclestone, 82, denies wrongdoing and said he will fight to clear his name.

The case could mean a further delay in tentative plans to float Formula One on the stock market in Singapore.

It has also revived speculation about an eventual successor to the man who turned the sport into a major global business over the past four decades.

Ecclestone also faces a damages claim in a London court next month over allegations that the Formula One stake was undervalued in the 2005 deal.

German media company Constantin Medien claims it was entitled to receive a share of the sale proceeds.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Keith Weir; Editing by David Cowell)

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