Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is facing a claim of fraud over an alleged failure to declare £400 million ($477 million, 473 million euros) of overseas assets to the British government, prosecutors said Monday.
Andrew Penhale, Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: “The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) has reviewed a file of evidence from HMRC (UK Revenue and Customs) and has authorised a charge against Bernard Ecclestone of fraud by false representation in respect of his failure to declare to HMRC the existence of assets held overseas believed to be worth in excess of £400m.”
He added: “The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against this defendant are now active and that they have a right to a fair trial.
“It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”
The director of the HMRC’s fraud investigation service, Simon York, said the investigation into the 91-year-old Ecclestone had been “complex and worldwide”.
“We can confirm that a fraud by false representation charge has been authorised against Bernard Ecclestone,” he said.
“This follows a complex and worldwide criminal investigation by HMRC’s fraud investigation service.
“The criminal charge relates to projected tax liabilities arising from more than £400m of offshore assets which were concealed from HMRC.
The case will first be heard at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court on August 22, although it was not specified if Ecclestone would be compelled to attend.
Ecclestone, a British businessman whose financial worth has been estimated at over £2.5 billion according to Forbes magazine, is widely credited with transforming Formula One into a commercial powerhouse.
Having had a brief career as a racing driver in the late 1950s, he later became the owner of the Brabham F1 team.
Ecclestone’s control of Formula One developed from what was then the pioneering sale of television rights in the late 1970s.
He was, however, removed from his position as chief executive of Formula One Group in January 2017, following its takeover by Liberty Media.
Ecclestone recently caused controversy for saying he would “take a bullet” for Vladimir Putin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ecclestone had described the Russian president as a “sensible” and “first class person” who “believed he was doing the right thing for Russia”.
He had also criticised Ukraine’s response to Russia’s military action, telling AFP last month: “Ukraine taking on Russia is a bit like me having an argument with Mike Tyson or another big boxer.
“I certainly would not have picked the fight.”
Ecclestone, however, also told Sky Sports: “I’m sorry if anything I’ve said has upset anybody because it certainly wasn’t intended.”