Flavio Briatore, the Italian tycoon and former boss of the Benetton and Renault F1 racing teams, is appealing a recent sentence to 23 months in prison for tax evasion.
The sentence, which was handed down by the Italian courts, relates to the entrepreneur’s use of superyacht Force Blue, bought by Briatore for just under £70m in 2009 from Roy Speer, the American founder of Home Shopping Network.
The Italian Financial Police boarded and sequestrated Force Blue back in 2010 just over five years ago in May 2010 in La Spezia, near Genoa on the Italian Riviera. The reason for the action and subsequent charge was the accusation that Briatore had not paid the appropriate amount of taxes on the fuel used by the yacht.
The action eventually resulted in a court case and Briatore’s conviction for tax evasion of €3.5 million. Briatore denied the charges and his lawyers have launched an immediate appeal against his sentence.
He disputed the authority’s charge that Force Blue was entirely for his personal use and that of his friends and family. The prosecution in turn pointed out that the yacht was registered to a charter company in a tax haven and that the company enjoyed a number of tax breaks that would not have been eligible for a single owner and personal use. They also pointed out that everything on the boat from the bed linen to the crockery had the initials FB on them. The defence pointed out that these were the initials of the yacht and that it is known that all big charter boats contents and furnishings bear the logo or initials of a boat.
In a high profile career, Briatore has often courted controversy and his personal life has occasionally played out in the glare of publicity. He was banned for life – later successfully overturned on appeal – by the F1 authorities following accusations that he had deliberately orchestrated a crash at the 2008 Singapore grand prix.
The appeal continues.