Bernie Ecclestone, the head of Formula One until 2017, has been sentenced to 17 months in prison (suspended if he does not reoffend) and to pay 653 million pounds (756 million euros) to the British treasury, after pleading guilty to hiding 400 million pounds (460 million euros) to the treasury.
The 92-year-old British billionaire pleaded guilty this Thursday in a London court to a charge of fraud for which they began investigating him in July 2015.
Ecclestone has reached an agreement with the Treasury to pay 653 million pounds for unpaid taxes for the last 18 years, and has been sentenced to 17 months in prison, which is suspended for the next two years.
According to the court, Ecclestone did not declare a trust in Singapore, with a bank account in which there were about 400 million pounds and, in addition, he lied to the British treasury when they questioned him about the issue in a meeting in 2015.
Ecclestone, who initially denied the charges, said at the time that he only established a trust for his three daughters, Deborah, Tamara and Petra.
According to the prosecutor, the answers that Ecclestone gave seven years ago were “erroneous” and could “lead to error”, while clarifying that the accused was not aware of his position and could not give a clear answer.
“Mr Ecclestone did not know exactly how the ownership of these accounts was structured. Therefore, he did not know if he had to pay taxes, interest or fines in relation to transfers between accounts. Mr Ecclestone acknowledges that it was a mistake to answer the questions because it could cause HMRC (the British Treasury) to stop investigating his affairs. “He now accepts that taxes would have to be paid for it,” said the prosecutor.
Ecclestone was the president of Formula One, the organization that controlled Formula One, until 2017, a few months after Liberty Media took over management of the sport.