Ex-Formula 1 Chief Bernie Ecclestone Gets Suspended Sentence for Fraud

Bernie Ecclestone, the former chief executive of the Formula 1 auto racing series, received a suspended sentence on Thursday in London after he pleaded guilty in a fraud case.

Mr. Ecclestone, 92, faced charges related to not reporting hundreds of millions of dollars he held in a trust in Singapore.

As part of the deal he will pay 652 million pounds ($802 million) in tax, interest and penalties. His sentence of 17 months was suspended, the judge said, because of his age and health issues.

Mr. Ecclestone initially pleaded not guilty and was due to stand trial starting next month.

He “bitterly regrets the events that led to this criminal trial,” his lawyer Christine Montgomery said in court.

The judge, Simon Bryan, said Mr. Ecclestone’s offense was “so serious that neither a fine or a community order would be appropriate.”

If Mr. Ecclestone keeps his record clean for two years, he will not serve the sentence at all.

He has an estimated net worth of 2.5 billion pounds. He was accused of lying to the British authorities when he claimed in 2015 that he had only one trust, and none outside Britain.

Mr. Ecclestone ran the Formula 1 racing series for 43 years, until 2017, when it was sold to Liberty Media. He helped build the series into the worldwide spectacle it has become, but in his later years he was seen by many as holding it back because of his autocratic style and slow pace of innovation.

In 2014, he faced criminal bribery charges in a German court in relation to a payment to a banker who approved the sale of Formula 1 to a private equity firm. But he escaped with a $100 million fine in a deal that was widely criticized. In 2008, he paid 10 million pounds to settle a British tax case.

In addition to his legal troubles, Mr. Ecclestone has found himself repeatedly in the news for his divisive comments. He drew condemnation in 2009 after an interview in which he said that Hitler had been an effective leader and questioned whether democracy was right for Britain. He later apologized for the remarks.

After the invasion of Ukraine, he called President Vladimir Putin of Russia a “first class” person whom he would “take a bullet for.” During the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, he said, “In lots of cases, Black people are more racist than what white people are.”

His wealth and notoriety have attracted the interest of tabloid newspapers and gossip magazines over the years. He has been married three times and has four children, ranging in age from 3 to 68.

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