28 April 2014

Dodging the bullet?

The story this morning about the BBC's Panorama programme's investigation into Bernie Ecclestone's tax affairs  BBC News - F1's Ecclestone avoided potential £1.2bn tax bill made interesting reading, particularly in the light of his current bribery trial in Germany.

The story suggests that Bernie avoided a potential £1.2Bn tax bill from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and did so by paying them £10M. I know that my maths is pretty ropey but, if those figures are correct, Bernie got away with paying 1% of the sum that HMRC are claimed to have been pursuing. That seems a little generous, don't you think?

But the story does give some credibility to his defence in Germany that the £26M he paid to a banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, was blackmail money because the banker was going to grass him up to HMRC. But, from Bernie's viewpoint, £26M must have seemed like a gift set against the potential £1.2Bn.

And in all of this, the taxpayer gets stiffed yet again because HMRC maybe could have screwed Bernie for £1.2Bn but they settled for £10M. Great work HMRC.

And when your read further on in the BBC piece you discover that Bernie's divorce from his ex, Slavica Radic, could have been have been part of a massive tax avoidance scheme. Bernie had put his dosh into a trust in Slavica's name which seems to have protected the money from HMRC. Then, when Bernie and Slavica divorce, she makes settlement payments to Bernie which are reputedly in the region of $100M a year. Obviously Bernie is a pretty bright boy, and Slavica seems to be a very compliant ex.