Bernie Ecclestone in court ahead of trial for alleged fraud

Ex-Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has appeared in court ahead of his November trial for allegedly failing to declare more than £400 million in a trust in Singapore to the Government.

Ecclestone, 92, sat between lawyers in the well of Southwark Crown Court on Friday, wearing a dark suit, white shirt, striped tie and dark glasses.

The billionaire was twice asked to confirm his identity by the court’s clerk, before stating his name after his defence barrister, Clare Montgomery KC, explained: “He’s just asking who you are.”

During the administrative hearing, which lasted about an hour, Ecclestone looked at legal documents and glanced towards the public gallery, where his wife, Fabiana Flosi, sat.

He faces a single charge of fraud by false representation between July 13 2013 and October 5 2016, following an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) into his finances.

Ecclestone is yet to formally enter a plea to the charge, although he previously indicated he would plead not guilty, at his first appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last August.

Bernie Ecclestone court case
Bernie Ecclestone has been charged over an alleged failure to declare £400 million of overseas assets to the Government (Yui Mok/PA)

He is alleged to have failed to declare a trust in Singapore with a bank account containing about 650 million US dollars as part of the probe, which would have allowed the business magnate to draw a line under any previous tax irregularities.

A trial date was previously fixed for October 9, but the date has since been pushed back to November 16.

On Friday, prosecutor Richard Wright KC and Ms Montgomery discussed the timetable for future hearings, which the judge, Mr Justice Bryan, set for April 19 and June 6.

The charge alleges that Ecclestone, who has three grown-up daughters, Deborah, Tamara and Petra, and a young son, Ace, allegedly made a representation to officers of HMRC “which was, and which he knew was or might have been, untrue or misleading”.

The particulars state that Ecclestone claimed “he had established only a single trust, that being one in favour of his daughters” and “other than the trust established for his daughters he was not the settlor nor beneficiary of any trust in or outside the UK”.

The charge against him was authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in July following an investigation by HMRC, which said the probe had been “complex and worldwide”.

Chief Crown Prosecutor Andrew Penhale said at the time: “The CPS has reviewed a file of evidence from HMRC and has authorised a charge against Bernard Ecclestone of fraud by false representation in respect of his failure to declare to HMRC the existence of assets held overseas believed to be worth in excess of £400 million.”