Insights |Insolvency

11th April 2022

Boris Becker’s bankruptcy: An usual case?

On Friday 8th April 2022, former tennis player Boris Becker was found guilty of four charges under the Insolvency Act.

The six-time grand slam winner and 1992 Olympic champion now potentially faces prison time when he is sentenced at the end of this month.

Becker was made bankrupt in June 2017, when he was unable to repay a debt of more than £3 million owed to Arbuthnot Latham & Co, a private bank. He “was legally obliged to disclose all of his assets so that his trustee could distribute available funds to his creditors.”

However, he has now been found guilty of:

  • Removing property worth more than £350,000
  • Failing to disclose ownership of a property in Germany
  • Concealing a bank loan of nearly £700,000
  • Failing to disclose ownership of 75,000 shares in Breaking Data Corp, a tech firm.

Insolvency investigations in the spotlight

Unsurprisingly, the news of Becker’s 2017 bankruptcy and this three-week trial have received a huge amount of mainstream media coverage. The vast amounts of money involved, unique story elements such as Becker’s assertion that he has lost some of his tennis trophies, and the fact he has been a regular commentator and pundit on UK TV coverage of Wimbledon, have made this a classic celebrity ‘fall from grace’ story. The Guardian’s headline on Friday afternoon was ‘Boris Becker: from tennis greatness to financial disaster’.

From an insolvency investigator’s point of view, this has been a rare occasion where the work we are involved in day-to-day has been outlined for the public in so much detail.

The tangled network of six-figure loans, payments to friends and family, multiple companies, worldwide properties, and discussions about unusual movable assets may appear to be peculiar to this extravagant celebrity’s case. But it isn’t.

We often work on cases like Becker’s, with individuals and companies spinning complex webs of transactions and layers of companies to hide their wealth.

This can make a successful prosecution hard (but not impossible) to achieve. The key, as with all legal cases, is finding the evidence.

This process is known as intelligence gathering and is the basis of asset tracing. As investigators, by conducting thorough forensic research and using techniques such as surveillance, we identify assets such as property, vehicles and valuables owned by the subjects or purchased by the subjects for their family members and close associates.

Proof of ownership or of a beneficial interest in an asset is crucial, as, in most cases, the end goal is to recover assets to settle a debt or as part of litigation. Obtaining proof is not always easy, as assets can be moved from one entity and jurisdiction to another, but there is usually an audit trail that we can follow.

What next for Becker?

Becker, 54, was on trial at Southwark Crown Court, prosecuted by the Insolvency Service on 24 charges. While he was acquitted of 20 of those charges, he was found guilty of concealing, removing and (on two counts) failing to disclose assets.

He was released on bail with sentencing due to take place on 29th April. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

Becker is already subject to a 12-year Bankruptcy Restriction Undertaking until 2031 and his discharge from bankruptcy has been suspended indefinitely.

ESA Risk asset trace investigations

To instruct us on an investigation or for more information on our asset tracing services, contact Mike Wright, Risk Management & Investigations Consultant at mike.wright@esarisk.com, on +44 (0)843 515 8686 or via our contact form.

 

 

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