17 months suspended prison sentence for Ecclestone

The 92-year-old admitted the allegations and paid back taxes amounting to the equivalent of more than 750 million euros.

Ecclestone agreed to this with the British tax authority HMRC, British media reported on Thursday from the courtroom in London. The sum covers payments from 18 tax years.

Ecclestone had previously admitted the accusations made by the prosecution. The authority accuses him of incorrectly declaring foreign assets worth more than 400 million pounds in taxes. The US magazine “Forbes” estimates the fortune of the former chief marketer of Formula 1 and his family at around 2.9 billion US dollars (2.73 billion euros).

Ecclestone initially always rejected the allegations. Now everything looks like a deal with the judiciary. A few weeks before the start of the fraud trial, prosecutor Richard Wright presented all the elements of the apparent agreement in court.


Up to ten years in prison were possible

The former Formula 1 boss admitted that his previous answers were wrong, as Wright said. “He now accepts that some tax is due in relation to these matters.” Defense attorney Christine Montgomery emphasized that her client “deeply regrets the events that led to this criminal trial.” Theoretically, a sentence of up to ten years in prison was possible.

The accusation is several years old. On July 7, 2015, according to the indictment, Ecclestone failed to declare a trust in Singapore with a bank account worth around $650 million, which was worth around £400 million at the time. Rather, Ecclestone stated that the trust’s beneficiaries were his three daughters Deborah (68), Tamara (39) and Petra (34). The British finance and tax authority HMRC saw things differently. She believed that the billionaire himself wanted to profit from the undeclared assets abroad.


“This answer was untrue or misleading”

The starting point of HMRC’s “complex and global” investigation was, of all things, a large payment made by Ecclestone. Around ten years ago he paid a deposit of 100 million US dollars, in return for bribery proceedings in Munich being dropped. This concerned the sale of Formula 1 to investment company CVC in 2006. When HMRC officials interviewed him in July 2015, the billionaire answered in the negative when asked whether he had connections to other trusts inside or outside the UK. “That answer was untrue or misleading,” said prosecutor White. “Mr Ecclestone knew his answer may have been untrue or misleading.”

Ecclestone has shaped Formula 1 like no other since taking over the advertising and television rights at the end of the 1970s. The Brit, who is just under 1.60 meters tall, turned the series into a global, billion-dollar company as a powerful managing director. He continually opened up new markets and did not shy away from politically controversial countries and rulers. In January 2017, Ecclestone was removed as managing director by the new Formula 1 owners Liberty Media.

With his opinion on dictatorships and other explosive statements, the Briton repeatedly caused incomprehension and scandals. Months after the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, he called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a first-class personality.” “I would still go through fire for him,” Ecclestone told British broadcaster ITV in June 2022.


Weapon in the suitcase

Shortly before, an incident in Brazil caused a stir. Ecclestone subsequently denied that he had been arrested at an airport for illegally possessing weapons. He was simply questioned. The LWS-32 small pistol from the US manufacturer Seecamp was accidentally packed into his suitcase. He had to pay a fine of 6,000 Brazilian reals (1,175 euros at the time) and the weapon was confiscated.

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