Former Formula 1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone was asked by his ex-son-in-law James Stunt to provide a $10 million guarantee for a business venture “which made no business sense”, it has been claimed. it was claimed on Thursday in one of the biggest UK investments ever. money laundering proceedings.
A jury at Leeds Crown Court was told on Thursday of the alleged involvement in the scheme by James Stunt, who is one of eight defendants on trial for allegedly laundering £266million.
Stunt, who was married to Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter Petra from 2011 to 2017, was the chairman of Stunt & Co, one of three companies that prosecutors say were used in the operation. All eight defendants deny wrongdoing.
The Ecclestones are not charged in the lawsuit and are not charged with any wrongdoing.
The trial heard allegations that between January 2014 and September 2016 millions of pounds of what prosecutors dubbed ‘crime money’ were couriered to the Bradford offices of gold dealer Fowler Oldfield . It was then allegedly paid into the company’s NatWest bank account “to hide its true origins and give it a veneer of respectability” as part of a “very sophisticated money laundering scheme”.
The money was then used to buy gold which was shipped to Dubai, according to the lawsuit.
The prosecution claimed there were close links between Fowler Oldfield and Stunt & Co. On Thursday, prosecutors alleged that £28 million in cash had been collected from the Mayfair offices of Stunt & Co after they were counted there and then deposited in the accounts of Fowler Oldfield. The Crown alleged that the operation had “all the hallmarks of a classic money laundering operation”.
On Thursday, prosecutor Nicholas Clarke QC claimed that, thanks to his marriage to Petra Ecclestone, Stunt “had an extravagant lifestyle, although his own personal finances are shrouded in mystery”.
“Backed by the wealth of his father-in-law, Stunt was able to establish business support and through his marriage he had access to his wife’s money. There is evidence of transfers of very large sums from his accounts They also had joint accounts which, in effect, had unlimited resources,” Clarke said.
Stunt’s divorce from Petra Ecclestone “and the fact that the river of money from Ecclestone’s sources may have dried up” may “be an explanation for why he became involved in a process which was shown to involve the laundering of millions of pounds of cash,” Clarke alleged at trial.
The court heard that Stunt approached the Canada-based Bank of Nova Scotia in 2015 with a business venture that involved creating Stunt-branded gold bars and “Formula 1 gold coins”. The bank indicated it was willing to do business with Stunt if the bank facility was secured by a letter of credit that Stunt could not provide, prosecutors told the jury. The Bank of Nova Scotia has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
“James Stunt claimed he was unable to guarantee it himself because all his money was tied up in America. Instead, he offered his father-in-law Bernie Ecclestone as a guarantor,” Clarke said. , adding that the agreement was only guaranteed by a letter of credit by which Bernie Ecclestone would provide a guarantee of 10 million dollars.
“The lack of provable personal wealth and available capital resources is demonstrated by the fact that Stunt had to go to his father-in-law for collateral. . . If Stunt was the billionaire he claims, then there would be no need for the outside guarantee at all,” Clarke said. He added that only a few Stunt & Co branded bars had been made, no Formula 1 gold coins had ever been made and that Stunt’s business venture “didn’t make any business sense”.
Stunt, 40, with his former personal assistant Francesca Sota, 34, and Alexander Tulloch, 41, former vice-chairman of Stunt & Co, all from London; as well as Gregory Frankel, 44, from West Yorkshire; Daniel Rawson, 45, of Leeds, as well as Paul Miller, 45, of Wetherby, Heidi Buckler, 45, of Leeds and Bradford jeweler Haroon Rashid, 51, all deny a charge of money laundering . Stunt and Sota also deny one count of infringement.
The trial continues.