LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: Bernie Ecclestone, the nonagenarian billionaire and former chief of Formula One, has reversed his plea to guilty in a fraud case where he was accused of failing to declare over £400m held in a trust in Singapore, bringing to light a widespread international tax evasion investigation.
In an unexpected turn, Ecclestone has agreed to repay £653m (US$803.7m) to HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) as part of a civil settlement.
Initially set to stand trial next month after a previous plea of not guilty, the 92-year-old will now await sentencing at a later date.
Prosecutors emphasized that Ecclestone, despite his earlier assertions, stood to gain from the undisclosed overseas trust and knowingly provided “untrue or misleading” answers to HMRC regarding his overseas assets.
Although Ecclestone admitted to being unclear about the account ownership structures, he recognized the wrongdoing in potentially obstructing HMRC investigations by providing inaccurate information. He accepted that some tax is due concerning these affairs.
A globe-spanning investigation has revealed deeper layers to this tax evasion scandal, extending its roots to Singapore.
MPs in Singapore’s parliament expressed concerns about the efficacy of anti-money laundering measures at the bank where Ecclestone’s funds were purportedly held.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and other national agencies have closely collaborated with UK authorities in their investigation and prosecution of Ecclestone.
The MAS conducted an inspection of the bank in 2017, which revealed areas for improvement in anti-money laundering processes but found no systemic weaknesses.
In a separate but potentially connected turn of events, Singapore’s Transport Minister S. Iswaran and billionaire businessman Ong Beng Seng were arrested on 11 July and are currently cooperating with the authorities, although the specific nature of the probe remains undisclosed by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
Both have been released on bail with Minister Iswaran’s passport confiscated and instructed to take a leave of absence pending the investigation’s conclusion.
Ong, a prominent figure in the Formula One world and owner of various global properties, is closely connected to Ecclestone due to his role in bringing the F1 race to Singapore in 2007.
Although further details of the alleged offences are awaited, reports from the online media outlet Asia Sentinel suggest that the investigations upon Iswaran and Ong might be intertwined with the Ecclestone case in London.
A source provided a tip-off suggesting that the F1 accounts were used as evidence to demonstrate corruption.
Among the entries, a payment was allegedly made to Ong, serving as reimbursement for covering Iswaran’s expenses related to the use of the VIP lounge at the F1 event in Singapore.
Subsequently, a Singaporean individual reportedly noticed this entry and informed the CPIB, according to the Asia Sentinel.
Commenting on the recent development in a Facebook post, Reform Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam said, “Of course, with no trial, we’re unlikely to see any more details. I’m reminded of the Phey Yew Kok case, where he pleaded guilty and we got no further details.”
Investigations into Iswaran and Ong are supposedly still ongoing, and they have not been charged for any offences.
Leong Mun Wai: Transforming social assistance with PSP’s empowerment approach
Singapore to amend GST Act after Govt agencies’ errors in fee charges
Leong Mun Wai advocates for public asset disclosure among key office holders
Hazel Poa: Majority relying on Govt grants for living costs signals unhealthy situation
Man set himself on fire at Israeli Embassy in Washington protesting Gaza genocide
A calculated exit? Leong’s strategic resignation unpacked
M’sian ex-lawyer speaks out for Singaporean parents over MOE’s controversial CCE lesson
S’porean streamer Kiaraakitty admits staging egg attack in Taiwan
Netizens scrutinise MOE’s approaches to address Gaza conflict in CCE lesson
Chan Chun Sing limits his Instagram comments amid MOE’s Israel-Hamas education backlash
Chan Chun Sing: MOE’s Israel-Hamas education to foster multiracial cohesion reflection
HK-born Singaporean businessman designated Politically Significant Person under FICA
Politics4 days ago
Leong Mun Wai steps down as PSP Secretary-General over POFMA directive received
Featured2 weeks ago
PA surveys community & govt confidence amid pending general election
Singapore3 days ago
Gilbert Goh challenges MOE on Israel-Hamas classroom narrative
Comments2 weeks ago
PAP Marcus Loh accuses WP’s MP of alleged dishonesty on debate about reserves
Civil Society2 weeks ago
Singaporeans stand firm in support for Palestine amidst police scrutiny
Singapore1 week ago
Kenneth Jeyaretnam issued 6th POFMA direction over Ridout Road saga
Civil Society2 weeks ago
At least 9 individuals summoned by police over Palestine solidarity activities on 2 Feb
Community2 weeks ago
Connectivity struggles in Tengah town prompt online user discussion