Bernie Ecclestone in ‘frail health’ after pleading guilty to tax charges

Bernie Ecclestone previously pleaded not guilty for not declaring £400m worth of overseas assets held in Singapore.

Ex-Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has pleaded guilty to fraud, in a hearing which took place Thursday morning in Southwark crown court, London.

The 92-year-old had been under investigation for not declaring to the UK government £400 million worth of overseas assets, something he originally pleaded not guilty to during a court hearing in June at Westminster Magistrates Court.

However, his plea changed on Thursday after informing the judge that “I plead guilty”.

Ecclestone was charged by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) during the summer after it was claimed that he failed to declare in excess of £400m worth of overseas assets, held in a trust fund in Singapore.

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The former F1 CEO failed to declare the overseas assets from July 13 2013 to October 5 2016, something that, as mentioned, he originally pleaded not guilty to.

The specific trust fund in Singapore he failed to declare reportedly had a bank account with $650 million in it, according to The Independent.

The charge against Ecclestone stated that he’d “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”.

According to Ecclestone’s representative, Clare Montgomery KC, he didn’t know the answer to HMRC’s question to him regarding to the trust fund and that he should’ve said “I don’t know”, rather than “no”.

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As quoted by The Standard, she said that Ecclestone “obviously bitterly regrets the events that have led to this criminal trial.

“He had no intention to avoid paying tax and has always been willing to pay the tax that’s due.

“It is common ground he didn’t know the true position – he simply didn’t know the answer to HMRC’s question and he should have said ‘I don’t know’ instead of ‘no’.

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“He is now in frail health. The whole process has caused immense stress to him and those who love him.”

To solve the matter, Ecclestone has agreed to pay a civil settlement of £652 million in unpaid tax, interest, and penalties in regard to the Singapore trust fund, something which could result in a kinder sentence.

For fraud by false representation, the maximum sentence is typically 10 years behind bars and a fine; however, Ecclestone pleading guilty will help his chances also of a weaker sentence.