Ecclestone pleads guilty for fraud - settles with HMRC

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Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has pleaded guilty to fraud in a case involving £400 million of offshore assets domiciled in Singapore.

Last year, charges were brought against Ecclestone by a prosecutor for the UK's Crown Prosecution Service, acting on behalf of for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The prosecutor was authorized to charge Ecclestone with fraud by false representation and a failure to declare overseas assets worth more than £400 million.

The 92-year-old, whose net worth is estimated at £2.5 billion ($3 billion), initially entered a not guilty plea and was granted unconditional bail ahead of the court case.

The charge was the result of a "complex and worldwide" investigation according to the HMRC whereby it was revealed that Ecclestone had failed to declare a trust in Singapore with a bank account containing approximately $650 million.

On Thursday, Ecclestone appeared at Southward Crown Court and changed his plea to guilty.

The court heard that Ecclestone has reached a civil settlement with HMRC to pay £652.6m - approximately $800 million - on 9 October covering 18 tax years.

Nevertheless, Ecclestone has been sentenced to 17 months in prison, suspended for two years.

According to Sky News, prosecutors said Ecclestone made untrue or misleading representations to HMRC at a July 2015 meeting, when he said he "established only a single trust" in favour of his daughters Deborah, Tamara and Petra.

At the time, Ecclestone answered "no" when asked by HMRC officers whether he had any links to further 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.

"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, who was responsible for building Formula 1 into a multi-billion-dollar powerhouse, managed the sport until its take-over at the start of 2018 by Liberty Media.

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