Bernie Ecclestone avoids jail despite admitting £400million fraud

12 October 2023, 12:11

Bernie Ecclestone arriving at court
Bernie Ecclestone arriving at court. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

Bernie Ecclestone has been handed a 17-month suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to fraud having failed to declare an estimated £400m in overseas assets to the UK government.

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The former Formula 1 chief submitted the plea at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday morning having initially pleaded not guilty at a hearing in August.

Ecclestone, who turns 93 later this month, failed to declare a trust in Singapore with a bank account containing $650m - worth around £400m at the time - in July 2015.

The court was told that Ecclestone has agreed a civil settlement of £652,634,836 in respect of sums due to HMRC.

His defence barrister, Christine Montgomery KC, told judge Justice Bryan that the defendant "bitterly regrets the events that led to this criminal trial".

Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone. Picture: Alamy

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Ms Montgomery told the court that Ecclestone is in "frail health" and the case has caused "immense stress to him and those who love him". 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."

Earlier the 92-year-old said "I plead guilty" at Southwark Crown Court while standing in the well of the court wearing a dark suit and grey tie.

The charge stated Ecclestone, who has three grown-up daughters, Deborah, Tamara and Petra, and a young son, Ace, had "established only a single trust, that being one in favour of your daughters and other than the trust established for your daughters you were not the settlor nor beneficiary of any trust in or outside the UK".

Before his guilty plea, he had been due to face trial in November on the single fraud charge.

Former racing car driver Ecclestone oversaw Formula One from the late 1970s until 2017.He was also co-owner of Queens Park Rangers from 2007 to 2011 with Flavio Briatore.

The Sunday Times Rich List ranks Ecclestone, who has been married three times, as the 65th wealthiest person in the country, with an estimated net worth of £2.5billion.