UK tax authorities have authorized fraud charges against former Formula One racing boss Bernie Ecclestone over his failure to declare more than $477 million (€473 million) in foreign assets, said Chief Crown Prosecutor Andrew Penhale in London Monday.
"The charges relate to projected tax liabilities arising from more than 400 million pounds of offshore assets which are concealed from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs [HMRC]," said Simon York, speaking for the agency. York said the charges are tied to a "complex and worldwide" investigation into Ecclestone's finances.
York said the "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, who singlehandedly built a massive family empire out of F1 as he modernized the sport over the course of decades — and has drawn scrutiny in the past for the opaque fashion in which he conducts business — said he was not surprised by the charges, though could not comment as he had not yet seen them.
Speaking from his home in Ibiza, Spain, the 91-year-old multi-billionaire told Reuters news agency: "It's something that has been talked about happening... quite a while ago. They've probably got all excited again. Let's see what happens."
After more than 50 years in F1 — first as a driver, then a team owner and ultimately as "supremo" of the entire sport — Ecclestone was forced to step down in 2017, when F1 was bought by the US-based company Liberty Media and he was replaced by Chase Carey as CEO of the Formula One Group.
The case is expected to begin on August 22, at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London