Boris Becker dishonestly “played” the bankruptcy system, hiding cash, property and trophies from insolvency trustees, a court has heard at the opening of his trial.
The multiple grand slam winner is charged with 24 counts relating to concealing assets, nine of which relate to trophies and medals won during his illustrious playing career, including from his first Wimbledon men’s single championship when he burst on to the world scene, aged just 17 years old. Becker denies all the charges.
Opening the prosecution case at Southwark crown court, in central London, on Monday, Rebecca Chalkley told the members of the jury that while the matters at hand may have caused their hearts to sink, they “boil down to everyday issues of dishonesty and knowledge. That is what we say is at the heart of this case”.
She said that the former tennis champion had broken the “bankruptcy bargain” whereby bankrupts are protected from their creditors in return for fully disclosing their assets.
“There is a consistent policy throughout the history of bankruptcy legislation, which goes back hundreds of years, that banksrupts who play the system, act in bad faith, should be punished and that, in short is what the prosecution say Mr Becker did here, ” she said.
She continued: “It’s the prosecution case … that Mr Becker acted dishonestly with regard to a number of his assets.”
Becker, 54, is accused of hiding properties in Germany and England, shares and more than €2.07m (£1.7m), including €1.14m from the sale of a car dealership. As well as the 1985 All England Club trophy, which made Becker the youngest Wimbledon men’s singles champion, he is accused of concealing the President’s Cup from 1985 and 1989, a 1988 Davis Cup gold coin and 1989 Davis Cup trophy, the 1989 Wimbledon trophy, 1991 and 1996 Australian Open trophies and a 1992 Olympic gold medal.
The court heard that Becker was declared bankrupt in June 2017 on application by the bank Arbuthnot Latham after he failed to repay a €3.5m loan made to him for a property in Mallorca, Spain.
The charges relate to the period between May and October 2017. Chalkely said the allegations relate to Becker’s actions before bankruptcy, in a period when he was “essentially on notice” about the likelihood of bankruptcy, with a team of lawyers and advisers on hand to help him, including challenging the bankruptcy, as well as after it.
Becker has lived in the UK since 2012 and is a regular commentator for the BBC at Wimbledon. Wearing a navy blue suit and white shirt, he was accompanied in the dock by a translator. Judge Deborah Taylor told the jury that Becker speaks English but may need help with “technical vocabulary such as legal concepts”.
The judge also told the jury: “You must ignore this defendant’s celebrity and treat him in exactly the same way you would treat someone you have not heard of and is not in the public eye.”
The trial is expected to last three weeks.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism