Bernie Ecclestone pleads guilty to fraud charge after failing to declare over £400M of overseas assets

Bernie Ecclestone pleads guilty to fraud charge after failing to declare over £400M of overseas assets

12 Oct    Finance News, News

Bernie Ecclestone, the former boss of Formula One, has admitted fraud after failing to declare more than £400m held in a trust in Singapore.

The 92-year-old billionaire did not disclose the trust to the government in July 2015.

Appearing at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday, he told the judge “I plead guilty” after having previously pleaded not guilty.

Ecclestone had been due to go on trial next month.

The charge stated Ecclestone, who has three grown-up daughters, Deborah, Tamara and Petra, and a young son, Ace, had ‘established only a single trust, that being one in favour of your daughters and other than the trust established for your daughters you were not the settlor nor beneficiary of any trust in or outside the UK’.

Before his guilty plea, he had been due to face trial in November on the single fraud charge.

Prosecutors say he declared “only a single trust” to tax authorities, which was established on behalf of his daughter.

According to the charge, he had told HMRC he was “not the settlor nor beneficiary of any trust in or outside the UK”.

But Ecclestone was charged when investigators uncovered evidence he stood to gain from the arrangement.

The court heard Ecclestone had said ‘no’ when asked by HMRC officers whether he had any links to further trusts ‘in or outside the UK’.

Prosecutor Richard Wright KC said: ‘That answer was untrue or misleading. Mr Ecclestone knew his answer may have been untrue or misleading.

‘As of July 7 2015, Mr Ecclestone did not know the truth of the position, so was not able to give an answer to the question.

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‘Mr Ecclestone was not entirely clear on how ownership of the accounts in question were structured.

‘He therefore did not know whether it was liable for tax, interest or penalties in relation to amounts passing through the accounts.

‘Mr Ecclestone recognises it was wrong to answer the questions he did because it ran the risk that HMRC would not continue to investigate his affairs.

‘He now accepts that some tax is due in relation to these matters.’

The charge alleged that Ecclestone ‘dishonestly’ made a representation to officers of HMRC ‘which was, and which you knew was or might have been, untrue or misleading’.

The charge against him was authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in July last year following an investigation by HMRC, which said the probe had been ‘complex and worldwide’.

Ecclestone was sentenced to 17 months in jail, suspended for two years and agreed a civil settlement of £652 to cover tax, interest and civil penalties due to HMRC.

Former racing car driver Ecclestone oversaw Formula One from the late 1970s until 2017.

He was also co-owner of Queens Park Rangers from 2007 to 2011 with Flavio Briatore.

The Sunday Times Rich List ranks Ecclestone, who has been married three times, as the 65th wealthiest person in the country, with an estimated net worth of £2.5billion.

Ecclestone started as a manager for driver Stuart Lewis Evans before working his way up to becoming the head o the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) and then Forumla One Management (FOM) – earning him 50 per cent of the revenue earned by F1.

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He eventually sold his ownership of F1 to Liberty Media for £6.4bn in 2016.

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