Former longstanding Formula One racing boss Bernie Ecclestone has been charged with fraud by false representation for allegedly failing to declare to Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over £400 million of assets held overseas.
On 11 July 2022, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) authorised the fraud charge after "a complex and worldwide criminal investigation by HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service". HMRC in their joint charging statement with the CPS emphasised that they are sending a clear message with this investigation and charge: that no one is beyond their reach. The tax authority confirmed that the charge relates to the projected tax liabilities which ought to have arisen from more than £400m of offshore assets which they say Ecclestone actively concealed from HMRC. As the findings of the HMRC investigation and further details come to light, individuals and companies alike will be able to learn valuable lessons about the tax treatment of overseas assets and the risks of handling them incorrectly.
This is also an important moment for the CPS Serious Economic, Organised Crime and International Directorate (SEOCID), which was launched as part of the CPS Economic Crime Strategy 2025 on 1 April 2022 in response to the changing nature of complex crime. SEOCID aims to bring together specialists in organised and economic crime to build the prosecutor's resilience, expertise and flexibility in this area. This will be one of the most important and highly publicised cases for SEOCID in the coming months and years, setting the tone for how the directorate intends to prosecute this type of crime.
Ecclestone has been the subject of several negative press stories recently. Just a few weeks ago, he made controversial comments in an interview with Good Morning Britain, saying he would "take a bullet" for Russian president Vladimir Putin, and in May of this year he was arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun while boarding a plane.
The first hearing in the fraud case will be heard on 22 August 2022 at Westminster Magistrates Court.