Formula One mogul Bernie Ecclestone pleaded guilty to a criminal tax fraud charge and was handed a suspended prison sentence for failing to tell British authorities about assets held in a Singapore bank of around £400 million ($492 million).
(Bloomberg) — Formula One mogul Bernie Ecclestone pleaded guilty to a criminal tax fraud charge and was handed a suspended prison sentence for failing to tell British authorities about assets held in a Singapore bank of around £400 million ($492 million).
In a dramatic reversal, just weeks before the 92-year-old was due to stand trial, Ecclestone agreed to a £652 million tax settlement that covers an 18 year period. He faced the single charge for failing to declare the overseas account following an investigation into his finances by His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
Judge Simon Bryan handed the tycoon, who was standing in court, a sentence of 17 months, suspended for two years. He said he’d taken Ecclestone’s age and health conditions into account when deciding to hold off immediate imprisonment.
Ecclestone previously told investigators that he’d established a single trust in favor of his two daughters, prosecution lawyers said, but had no other overseas trusts.
But when asked by tax officers at a meeting in July 2015 if he had any other overseas trusts beyond the one for his daughters, he replied that he didn’t. The Singapore bank account tied to two trusts was held by Bank Julius Baer.
“He bitterly regrets the events that have led to this criminal trial,” his lawyer Clare Montgomery said. “It was an impulsive lapse of judgment.”
The tycoon used the Singapore account to buy and sell foreign currency, according to prosecutor Richard Wright. The annual losses and gains typically ran into the tens of millions of US dollars, he said.
Bryan said in his ruling that Ecclestone didn’t know the full tax position but had previously met with the relationship manager responsible for the Singapore account.
At the July 2015 meeting, prosecutors said Ecclestone had wanted to draw a line under the tax investigations, which had been running since 2012. He’d previously offered to settle the tax investigation for some £70 million.
The civil settlement included some £330 million in penalties.
(Updates with details throughout.)
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