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Ex-F1 boss Ecclestone handed suspended prison sentence for fraud

Ex-Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been handed a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to fraud for failing to declare over £400million of assets held in Singapore.

Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Ecclestone, who owned the championship-winning Brabham team from 1972 to 1987 as he rose to overall power in F1, led the series for more than four decades before its 2017 takeover by current owner Liberty Media. He then took on the 'chairman emeritus' and an advisory role.

But in July last year, the Crown Prosecution Service "authorised the charging of Bernard Charles Ecclestone with fraud by false representation, following a HMRC investigation."

This relates to a single count of fraud made on 7 July 2015, the court previously hearing how Ecclestone failed to declare in excess of £400m in trusts held in a Singapore bank account.

On Thursday, the 92-year-old, who has an estimated net worth of £2.5 billion, changed his plea to guilty while appearing at Southwark Crown Court.

Accordingly, Ecclestone has been sentenced to 17 months in prison, suspended for two years.

It is now being reported that Ecclestone has reached a settlement to pay HM Revenue & Customs over £600m to cover 18 tax years.

Sky News notes that prosecutor Richard Wright KC said: "Mr Ecclestone was not entirely clear on how ownership of the accounts in question were structured.

"He therefore did not know whether it was liable for tax, interest or penalties in relation to amounts passing through the accounts.

Bernie Ecclestone, Chairman Emiritus of Formula 1

Bernie Ecclestone, Chairman Emiritus of Formula 1

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

"Mr Ecclestone recognises it was wrong to answer the questions he did because it ran the risk that HMRC would not continue to investigate his affairs. He now accepts that some tax is due in relation to these matters."

According to Simon York, the director of the HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service, the charge against Ecclestone "follows a complex and worldwide criminal investigation.

"The criminal charge relates to projected tax liabilities arising from more than £400m of offshore assets which were concealed from HMRC.

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"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 was previously subject to a bribery trial in Germany between 2012 and 2014, which ended when he paid a £60m settlement without admitting guilt.

F1 will not be commenting on the matter.

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