The former son-in-law of Formula One billionaire Bernie Ecclestone allegedly used a $10 million guarantee from Ecclestone to start a gold business that was at the heart of a £266 million money laundering scheme.
James Stunt's trial in the United Kingdom heard that he lived a "extravagant lifestyle" despite his personal finances being "shrouded in mystery."
The Mayfair offices of Stunt & Co were allegedly used to receive £28 million in criminal cash, which was then used to purchase gold. The operation is said to have netted Stunt £44 million.
Stunt was previously married to Petra Ecclestone, Ecclestone's daughter. He is on trial in Leeds Cloth Hall Nightingale court for money laundering.
Stunt, 40, married Ecclestone, 33, in 2011 and the couple had three children together before divorcing in 2017. Bernie Ecclestone, 91, amassed a fortune as the owner of Formula One's commercial rights.
There is no evidence that Bernie or Petra Ecclestone did anything wrong.
Fowler Oldfield, a gold dealer in Bradford, West Yorkshire, was allegedly at the center of the money laundering operation.
"The river of money from the Ecclestone sources may have been running dry" at the end of Stunt's marriage, prosecuting barrister Nicholas Clarke told the cout. This, according to the prosecution, is what led him to engage in money laundering, allegedly converting drug-dealing cash into gold.
According to the court, Stunt reached an agreement with Bank of Nova Scotia to buy gold bars, but claimed he could not guarantee the deal because all of his money was locked up in America, where he and his wife lived.
Mr Clarke told the court that instead, he put forward his father-in-law Bernie Ecclestone as a guarantor.
"Ecclestone would provide a $10 million guarantee to enable Stunt & Co to lease gold up to that amount subject to a margin for the fluctuations in the price of gold," he added.
"The lack of provable personal wealth and available capital resources is demonstrated by the fact Stunt had to go to his father-in-law for the guarantee that gave him access to this loan facility."
"If Stunt were the billionaire that he claims then there would be no need for the outside guarantee at all. It is only the impecunious that need such a third-party financial crutch to support them," according to the prosecutor.
"Backed by his father-in-law’s wealth, Stunt was able to establish business support, and through his marriage he had access to his wife’s money," Clarke continued.
"There is evidence of transfers of large amounts from her accounts into his. They also had joint accounts that, effectively, had unlimited resources. He has been able to write cheques on and arrange transfers from his personal account for truly astonishing sums of money."
The court was also told that a month before being raided by police in September 2016, gold merchant Fowler Oldfield bosses hired a security expert to check their offices and cars for surveillance devices.
Seven other defendants, including Stunt, deny money laundering. The trial is ongoing.
By fLEXI tEAM