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Former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone arrives at Southwark Crown Court this morning Lucy North/PA
Singapore

Ex-F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone spared jail for failing to declare €463m of overseas assets

The billionaire failed to declare a trust in Singapore with a bank account containing around $650 million, worth about €463 million at the time.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 12th 2023, 1:05 PM

EX-FORMULA ONE boss Bernie Ecclestone has been spared jail time after admitting to fraud to the UK government earlier today.

Eccelstone failed to declare more than £400 million (€463m) held in a trust in Singapore to the UK Government earlier today.

The 92-year-old said “I plead guilty” at Southwark Crown Court this morning while standing in the well of the court wearing a dark suit and grey tie.

The court heard the 92-year-old has agreed a civil settlement of £652,634,836 in respect of sums due to HMRC over the course of 18 years.

At Southwark Crown Court on Thursday, Ecclestone was handed a 17-month jail term, suspended for two years.

His defence barrister, Christine Montgomery KC, told sentencing judge Mr Justice Bryan that the defendant “bitterly regrets the events that led to this criminal trial”.

Sentencing Ecclestone, who heard the judge’s remarks from the dock, Mr Justice Bryan said: “Your offending is so serious that neither a fine nor a community order would be appropriate.

“It is rightly acknowledged that the custody threshold has been passed.”

However, he said that he had taken into consideration a number of mitigating factors, including Ecclestone’s health, age, and that he has no previous criminal convictions.

Conviction

On 7 July 2015, the billionaire failed to declare a trust in Singapore with a bank account containing around $650 million, worth about £400 million (€463m) at the time.

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.

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

“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.”

Author
Press Association