Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone avoided a potential £1.2bn tax bill after reaching a settlement deal with HMRC, according to a new BBC Panorama probe.
The BBC obtained legal transcripts which revealed HMRC spent nine years investigating Ecclestone’s family tax affairs before offering to settle for just £10m in 2008.
The investigation goes back to 1995 when Ecclestone secured ownership of the TV rights of Formula 1, and then moved the asset offshore before giving the rights to his then wife, Slavica. She transferred them to a family trust in Liechtenstein before selling them on.
The BBC saidthat it could be the biggest individual tax dodge in UK history, but it is legally watertight provided Ecclestone did not set up, or control, the trust.
Ecclestone has admitted that his tax liability would have been in excess of £1.2bn if it could be shown he had some involvement in the funds.
Previously unpublished transcripts of interviews conducted by a German public prosecutor have now come to light revealing one of the lawyers who helped run the family trusts, Frederique Flournoy, saying: “In summer 2008, the Inland Revenue offered to conclude the matter if we paid £10m. We decided to pay up.”
HMRC said they are unable to discuss the confidential tax affairs of identifiable individuals or businesses, while a lawyer for the Ecclestone family trusts said in a statement: “Mr Ecclestone has not exerted, and has never sought to exert, any control over the management of the trusts.”
Ecclestone is currently on trial in Germany facing corruption charges where it has been alleged he was behind a £29m bribe paid to a bank official, linked to the sale of a stake in F1.
The F1 chief executive admitted paying former Bayern LB banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, but said he was the victim of blackmail as he was worried Gribkowsky would tell the tax authorities he had set up an offshore family trust.