Ecclestone, ex-F1 boss accused of fraud

Former Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been charged with fraud for allegedly failing to declare more than £400m (A$707m) in overseas assets to UK tax authorities.

The Crown Prosecution Service said on Monday that Ecclestone, 91, faces one count of fraud by false representation.

“This follows a complex and global criminal investigation by HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service,” said Simon York, Director of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Fraud Investigation Service.

The first hearing in his case is due to be held on August 22 at Westminster Magistrates Court in London.

Contacted by Reuters in Ibiza, Ecclestone said he had not yet seen the details.

“I haven’t seen that, so I don’t know, so I can’t comment,” he said when reading the statement.

The British billionaire, however, indicated that he did not come out of nowhere.

“It’s something that’s been talked about, but not in the way you said it, something a little different from that a while ago,” he said. “They’re probably all excited again. Let’s see what happens.”

In 2015, Ecclestone faced a claim from HMRC for payment of over £1 billion (A$1.76 billion) relating to a family trust.

He then said that HMRC had not respected a 2008 agreement on the “Bambino Trust”, created for the benefit of his ex-wife Slavica and his daughters Tamara and Petra, and that he was taking legal action.

The Briton was ousted as Formula 1 champion in 2017 when US company Liberty Media took over commercial rights to the sport.

He maintains an office in London but now spends most of his time abroad, with residencies in Switzerland and Ibiza as well as a farm in Brazil.

He continued to make headlines, however, and in May Brazilian police said they arrested him after finding a handgun in his luggage as he tried to leave the country.

Ecclestone admitted to owning it, but said he did not know it was in his luggage. He was released after posting bail.

The businessman, who has a history of making controversial comments, offended and condemned in June when he defended Russian President Vladimir Putin in a TV interview as a “first-class person” for whom he “would take a ball”.

He apologized in a video posted on Saturday, saying he was not defending the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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