Bernie Ecclestone is an exceptionally wealthy man who until recently will have been familiar to Formula 1 racing fans and quite unimportant to the rest of the world. Only what he did today should make him a figure of global notoriety: Ecclestone paid $100 million to have a German court dismiss corruption charges raised against him that could have resulted in a 10-year prison sentence. No wonder he's laughing.

The prosecutors in the case decided to accept Ecclestone's settlement offer on account of his advanced age and the anticipated difficulty of obtaining a conviction. This is in spite of the fact that Ecclestone admits to having paid millions of dollars to a German banker that has already been successfully prosecuted and is currently serving his own prison term. The moral of the story, therefore, seems to be that if you're going to engage in high-level bribery, you should always save up enough to make sure you can buy the court as well if you are ever caught.