Bernie Ecclestone, the former Formula 1 boss, has been charged with fraud for trying to cover up more than £400 million in overseas assets to the government. That’s nearly $475 million, based on current exchange rates, which Ecclestone failed to report to the HMRC in an effort to avoid paying taxes, the Telegraph reports.
The HMRC is, more or less, the British equivalent of the IRS in the U.S.; fraud investigators with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs had opened a probe into Bernie Ecclestone’s overseas assets earlier, and the investigation yielded enough evidence to charge Ecclestone with “one count of fraud by false representation.”
Presumably, the 91-year-old billionaire was hoping to avoid paying taxes on the overseas assets, but British investigators said “no one is beyond our reach,” and went on to say they would take tough action where tax fraud was suspected.
The kicker is that Bernie Ecclestone has done something similar before: in 2014, Ecclestone successfully avoided paying a tax bill of £1.2 billion, or $2 billion at the time, by giving the TV rights of Formula 1 to his ex-wife Slavica Ecclestone, according to the BBC. The outlet claimed it was the biggest tax dodge in British History. And Ecclestone has been in tax tussles with the HMRC periodically.
Legal battles have been ongoing between Ecclestone and the HMRC for years. There have been accusations of bribery and corruption against the Ecclestone family trust and EU officials, but one of the biggest consequences was Bernie Ecclestone losing his seat at Formula One. He was ousted as CEO in 2017, which brought his 40-year reign over the world-famous F1 series to a close.
Since then, the Formula 1 Group has tried to distance itself from the founder, once known as the “Formula One Supremo,” not only for his shady business dealings, but because Ecclestone has a tendency of expressing support for authoritarians, despots and wannabe despots: he’s publicly praised Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
And in regard to this latest accusation of tax fraud, Bernie Ecclestone tells Reuters the HMRC “probably got all excited again,” and claims he expected to be charged. The first hearing in Ecclestone’s case is set for August 22 in London.