Bernie Ecclestone has avoided going to jail after pleading guilty to fraud after failing to declare more than £400million of overseas assets to the UK Government. The former F1 tycoon arrived at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday morning to face charges of fraud relating to a trust held in Singapore.
He was due to face trial next month having previously denied the charge of fraud. But Ecclestone has changed his stance, pleading guilty this morning to a single count of fraud by false representation.
He’s agreed to a civil settlement of little over £652million to HMRC and has been handed a suspended 17-month jail sentence with his defence barrister Christine Montgomery KC telling judge Justice Bryan that Ecclestone “bitterly regrets the events that led to this criminal trial”.
She added: “It was not Mr Ecclestone’s intention to avoid paying tax. He has always been willing to pay the tax that was due.”
The 92-year-old failed to inform the UK Government about the trust he had in Singapore. He was accused of hiding more than £400m in an overseas bank account dating back to July 2015.
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Prosecutors looked into Ecclestone’s finances eight years ago and accused the former F1 tycoon of not being truthful when he claimed in a meeting to have “established only a single trust” for his three daughters.
He answered “no” when asked by HMRC asked whether he had any other 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.
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“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.”
Ecclestone was head of F1 for four decades dating back to the 1970s before he was removed from his position in 2017.
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