Bernie Ecclestone pleads not guilty to tax fraud case

Sam Cooper
Bernie Ecclestone arriving at court. London, June 2023.

Bernie Ecclestone arriving at court. London, June 2023.

Ex-Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone has pleaded not guilty to a fraud charge brought against him by UK prosecutors.

The ex-F1 supremo is accused of failing to declare to the UK government a trust in Singapore with a bank account containing more than £400 million in a case ranging from July 2013 and October 2016.

Ecclestone appeared at London’s Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday dressed in a dark suit and dark glasses where he confirmed his name before entering his not guilty plea.

Ecclestone initially denied the charge last summer before formally entering his plea on Tuesday. The case is set to go to trial in November following a worldwide investigation by Britain’s tax office.

Prosecutors allege he failed to declare the trust when he was asked about any trusts abroad that he was involved in.

They allege that Ecclestone claimed he had set up “only a single trust” in favour of his three daughters, and that he was “not the settler nor beneficiary of any trust in or outside the U.K.” Prosecutors say he acted “dishonestly” and intended to make a gain from the claims.

In July, the Crown Prosecution Service said the charge was “in respect of his failure to declare to HMRC the existence of assets held overseas believed to be worth in excess of £400m”.

Ecclestone was formerly the chief of F1 before he sold his controlling stake to US company Liberty Media.

During his reign, Ecclestone amassed a reported £3.6 billion fortune and earlier this month, the Sunday Times ranked him as the 73rd richest person in the UK.

This recent case is not the first time Ecclestone has found himself in trouble with HMRC. In 2008, it was revealed he had been investigated by UK tax authorities for nine years and avoided a payment of £1.2 billion through a legal tax avoidance scheme. HMRC agreed to conclude the matter following a £10 million payment.