By Jack Brodie with Reuters: Bernie Ecclestone has landed himself in some very hot water, as the Former Formula 1 supremo faces charges of fraud by false representation after allegedly failing to announce over 400 million pounds of overseas assets to the UK government.

The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service said on Monday, July 11, that it had “authorised the charging of Bernard Charles Ecclestone with fraud by false representation, following a (HM Revenue and Customs) investigation.”

Now 91 years-old, Ecclestone amassed an estimated fortune of 2.5 billion pounds over his 40 years at the helm of the world’s most prestigious motorsport until it was taken over by US group Liberty Media in 2017. Ecclestone left his emeritus position within F1 in 2020.

“I haven’t seen that so I don’t know so I can’t comment,” he said when the statement was read to him.

The British billionaire indicated it had not come out of the blue, however.

“It’s something that has been talked about happening, but not in the way you said, something a little bit different to that, quite a while ago,” he said. “They’ve probably got all excited again. Let’s see what happens.”

The director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, Simon York said that the tax authority had carried out a “complex and worldwide criminal investigation,” before adding that “HMRC is on the side of honest taxpayers and we will take tough action wherever we suspect tax fraud. Our message is clear; no one is beyond our reach.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Penhale, the chief crown prosecutor, said “The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against this defendant are now active and that they have a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”

The first hearing of the case will be held at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday, August 22.

Ecclestone maintains an office in London but now spends most of his time abroad, with residences in Switzerland and Ibiza as well as a farm in Brazil.

He has continued to make headlines however, and in May Brazilian police said they had arrested him after finding a handgun in his luggage as he was trying to leave the country.

Ecclestone acknowledged owning it but said he was unaware it was in his luggage. He was freed to leave after paying bail.

The businessman, who has a history of controversial comments, caused offence and drew condemnation in June when he defended Russian President Vladimir Putin in a television interview as a “first class person” he would “take a bullet” for.

He apologised in a video released on Saturday, saying he was not defending the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

PHOTO: Formula One F1 – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – September 27, 2019 Bernie Ecclestone during practice REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo