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Former F1 Chief Bernie Ecclestone Caught In $400 Million Tax Evasion Case; Given Two Year Suspended Sentence

Bernie Ecclestone, the former chief of Formula 1, received a 17-month suspended prison sentence and must pay £652.6 million to UK tax authorities after pleading guilty to fraud.
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By Yashraj Singh

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2 mins read

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Published on October 14, 2023

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Highlights

  • The case stemmed from Ecclestone's failure to declare £400 million in assets held in a Singapore-based offshore trust in 2015.
  • Ecclestone has expressed regret for his actions, characterising the false representation as an "impulsive lapse of judgement."
  • Despite having led Formula 1 for over four decades, Ecclestone's role in the sport ended with its 2017 takeover by Liberty Media.

Bernie Ecclestone, the former chief of Formula 1, has been handed a 17-month prison sentence suspended for two years after pleading guilty to fraud in a London court. The case revolves around a failure to declare £400 million in assets held in a Singapore-based offshore trust, dating back to 2015. Ecclestone has also agreed to pay £652.6 million to UK tax authorities, covering 18 tax years from 1994 to 2022, in a civil settlement with HMRC (UK's tax body).

 

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The case emerged after an investigation by HMRC into Ecclestone's finances. During this investigation, it was discovered that in 2015, Ecclestone failed to declare the Singapore-based offshore trust. In court, prosecutors revealed that Ecclestone answered "no" to a question about additional trusts beyond the one established for his daughters, leading HMRC not to investigate further.


Ecclestone had been scheduled to stand trial next month but appeared at Southwark Crown Court earlier this week, changing his plea to guilty and agreeing to the substantial payment. Clare Montgomery KC, his defence, noted that Ecclestone "bitterly regrets the events that led to this criminal trial" and characterised the false representation as an "impulsive lapse of judgement."

 

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While he was the central figure in Formula 1 for over four decades, Ecclestone saw his involvement in the sport come to a close with its 2017 takeover by Liberty Media. He then assumed an advisory role as "chairman emeritus."


This isn't the first legal entanglement for Ecclestone; he was previously involved in a bribery trial in Germany between 2012 and 2014, which concluded with him paying a £60 million settlement without admitting guilt.

 

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The Formula 1 organisation has chosen not to comment on the matter. Ecclestone, who has an estimated net worth of £2.5 billion, is now sentenced to a suspended prison term, reflecting his guilty plea to fraud and the substantial financial settlement agreed with HMRC.


In a statement, Simon York, the director of the HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service, declared that this charge against Ecclestone comes after a "complex and worldwide criminal investigation." The charge relates to "projected tax liabilities arising from more than £400 million of offshore assets concealed from HMRC." York emphasised that HMRC is committed to acting against tax fraud, regardless of an individual's status or location.


 

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