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Bernie Ecclestone's trial is not likely to be a speedy one...
Bernie Ecclestone's trial is not likely to be a speedy one...
Hans Leyendecker and Klaus Ott

MUNICH - In early July, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone may come to Germany to attend the F1 race hosted by the Nürburgring south of Cologne.

Ecclestone, the British mogul who has turned motor sports into a billion dollar business, enjoys showing up for the racing events to chat with the drivers, meet sponsors, and work deals. But if he does show up, the visit will be the last comfortable one he takes to Germany. The one after that is a court date in Munich.

Ecclestone has been under investigation for over two years because he secretly gave $44 million to a top banker with a lot of say in F1. Now the investigation phase has been completed and according to information obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung, the long-planned bribery charge planned against Ecclestone should be filed at a Munich court this month, perhaps as early as this week.

But it will still be some time before the indictment reaches Bernie -- as he is mostly referred to. The document has first to be translated into English, so that Ecclestone can read what he is accused of. And then his lawyers, Sven Thomas and Norbert Scharf, get accorded some time to respond.

The lawyers will do everything to convince the court at a preliminary hearing that the charges do not apply and that therefore no trial is necessary. Thomas and Scharf have already tried to prevent an indictment, without success. If the court reaches the decision that the charges warrant a trial, it will most certainly not begin before the fall.

Bribery or blackmail?

Will Ecclestone still be the F1’s big boss by then? Months ago, as it became clear that he might be charged, top managers started thinking about how they could get around this, and the idea was to get Ecclestone to step down. The official reason given would be that he needs all his time and energy to deal with the case. The unofficial reality is that the sponsors and heads of state with whom the racing entity negotiates will not want to deal with someone charged with a crime.

In October, Ecclestone will turn 83. However, he is fit, and retirement is not on the agenda. He also vehemently denies any wrongdoing and says that he only gave BayernLB chairman Gerhard Gribkowsky the $44 million because he was being blackmailed.

BayernLB was at one time majority shareholder in Formula 1 and made life difficult for Bernie, until Gribkowsky suddenly let up on him. The former banker now claims to have been bribed by Ecclestone. He has been condemned to eight and a half years in prison for accepting bribes and other charges. The case will not be appealed. However, the banker’s sentence does not mean that the F1 boss will be found guilty.

The Ecclestone trial is a brand new -- and separate -- proceeding. Neither the prosecution in Munich nor Ecclestone’s two lawyers wished to comment on the filing of the charges.

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Society

India Faces Eternally Complex Child-Care Question: What To Do With Kids Of Women Prisoners

While growing up inside a prison leads to a range of difficulties for children, those separated from their mothers and left on the outside also face different traumas. In this in-depth reportage for India's The Wire, journalist Sukanya Shantha talks to mothers who had to give birth in jail and those who went without seeing their children for years to keep them protected.

Indian woman holding her boy in New Delhi

Sukanya Shantha

MUMBAI — Raginibai was at the construction site when a large police search team came looking for her. Her husband was found brutally murdered, and his body — wrapped in a jute bag — had been buried several feet under the construction debris close by. The police suspected that Raginibai, along with a man they claimed was her “lover,” was involved in the murder. Raginibai denied this charge vehemently.

But at that moment, neither her husband’s death nor the police’s suspicion could unsettle her. The well-being of her five-year-old son, who shadowed her everywhere at the construction site in Taloja, on the outskirts of Mumbai, was all that she worried about.

Raginibai, a landless migrant labourer and a Dalit woman from Kalahandi — one of the most backward districts in the eastern Indian state of Odisha — feared that the police would take her child away and she would never be able to see him again. In desperation, she requested that the police hand her child over to a person she claimed was her sister. This was a claim that the police was legally bound to — yet never bothered to — independently ascertain.

Raginibai was arrested on November 15, 2019. She was pregnant at the time. She gave birth to a girl, her third child, inside an overcrowded Kalyan district jail, over 50 km away from Mumbai city.

Her eldest, a 12-year-old daughter, was away at Raginibai’s mother’s house in Odisha at the time of the arrest. With no parental support or financial backing, her daughter had to drop out of school and is now being forced into child labor in a paddy field, many kilometers outside her village.

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