Ex-Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has entered a not guilty plea to a fraud charge brought forward at the conclusion of an investigation by British tax authority HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Ecclestone attended a first hearing of the case at Westminister Magistrates Court in the English capital London on Monday, and had to state his name, date of birth and the Knightsbridge address from which he once ran his Formula One empire.
The charge relates to a period of over three years from July 13, 2013 to October 5, 2016, with Ecclestone accused of fraud by false representation for allegedly failing to declare a Singapore-based trust worth $650 million Singapore dollars ($465 million).
Ecclestone arrived at the court in a Range Rover and was accompanied by his vice-president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) wife Fabiana, plus a World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) member.
Eccelstone, aged 91, had trouble hearing the proceedings which meant that his barrister Clare Montgomery QC needed to ask for permission for her client to stand outside the dock, which was granted by chief magistrate Paul Goldspring.
Ecclestone is said to have disclosed «only a single trust» to UK tax authorities for his three adult daughters, but insisted he was «not the settlor or the beneficiary of any other trust».
He was accused of acting «with the intention of making a gain» for himself, the court was told, with the HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service director Simon York previously saying that the charge was brought forward after the conclusion of a «complex and worldwide criminal investigation».
According to York in July, the charge «relates to projected tax liabilities» from «offshore assets, which were concealed from HMRC».
After pleading not guilty, Ecclestone was granted unconditional bail with a hearing at Southwark crown court penciled in for September 19.
The ongoing case represents the second time in recent months that Ecclestone, who ran F1 until 2017, has been in the headlines for allegedly being on the wrong side of the law.
In May, he was arrested in his wife’s homeland Brazil for taking a small firearm onboard a private flight which he claimed to have no knowledge of being packed in his luggage.
Later, in June, he caused controversy for saying he’d «take a bullet» for Russian President Vladimir Putin, but later backtracked somewhat on his remarks amid a backlash from the Western media.
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