Formula 1 powerbroker Bernie Ecclestone admitted to a German court in Munich yesterday that he had paid a former BayernLB banker to stay quiet  and try to keep the tax authorities at bay while acquiring the commercial rights for the multi-million dollar global sport five years ago.

Ecclestone was giving evidence at the trial of Gerhard Gribkowsky, the former risk manager of the BayernLB, who is charged with selling the F1 rights in exchange for a bribe.  He is charged with bribery, embezzlement and tax evasion in a deal, which cost the bank $92m (£58m).

Ecclestone said he was worried Gribkowsky could talk to British tax authorities about his businesses and, even if he was legal and correct, a tax probe might be damaging and costly.

"I had no alternative at the time," said Ecclestone.

"The only alternative was that the British tax authorities followed a case that would have been very expensive for me," added Ecclestone, who has immunity from prosecution for his testimony but not in general for his involvement in the affair. "The tax risk would have exceeded two billion pounds.

"I paid him (Gribkowsky) to keep calm and not to do silly things. I knew he wanted to start a business."