Ex-F1 chief Ecclestone charged with $475 million fraud
Former Formula 1 head Bernie Ecclestone has been hit with a charge of fraud by false representation by the UK's Crown Prosecution Service after allegedly failing to disclose around £400 million ($475 million) of overseas assets.
Investigators claim that the often 91-year-old billionaire withheld information related to the correct payment of his tax liabilities and is due before Westminster Magistrates' Court on August 22 to answer the charges.
Speaking on the investigation, Simon York, director of HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service said that the charges are the result of a wide-ranging investigation into alleged financial irregularities involving Ecclestone, and added that the move was made on behalf of the UK's “honest taxpayers”.
“This follows a complex and worldwide criminal investigation by HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service,” York said.
“The criminal charge relates to projected tax liabilities arising from more than £400m of offshore assets which were concealed from HMRC.
“HMRC is on the side of honest taxpayers and we will take tough action wherever we suspect tax fraud. Our message is clear - no one is beyond our reach.”
Ecclestone, meanwhile, has been the source of numerous headlines in recent days owing to his comments on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two worked together to arrange for a Russian Grand Prix to be added to the annual Formula 1 race calendar from 2014, with Sochi being eventually selected as the venue after a prolonged campaign by Ecclestone.
The race, however, was removed from the 2022 season by F1 chiefs following the onset of Russia's military operation in Ukraine.
Nonetheless, Ecclestone ignited a backlash in the Western media when he recently said on UK breakfast TV that he would happily “take a bullet” for the Russian leader, whom he also described as a “first-class person”.
Ecclestone was later forced to withdraw those comments, telling Sky Sports: “I'm sorry if anything I've said has upset anybody because it certainly wasn't intended.”