Former Tennis superstar and six times Grand Slam Singles Champion Boris Becker, has been released from prison early, after serving eight months of the two and a half year sentence he received back in April of this year, for hiding £2.5m worth of assets and loans, so as to avoid paying off massive debts.
The 55-year-old German was found guilty of four charges under the Insolvency Act, although he was acquitted of a further 20 that had been heard during his trial; and his early release means he has actually spent only just over a quarter of his sentence behind bars. He had been declared bankrupt in June 2017 over an unpaid loan of more than £3m, on his estate in Mallorca, Spain.
It was reported that Becker was initially held at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London, which is a very old Victorian category B prison, but was later transferred to the more modern and easier Huntercombe Prison, near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, which is a category C prison and created for foreign national men.
Even though he served less than 12 months, because he received a custodial sentence of over one year, he now faces being deported from the UK, where he has lived since 2012. The law states that foreign nationals convicted of a crime will qualify for automatic deportation at the earliest opportunity, and as Becker does not have British citizenship, he falls in to this band.
From golden boy to crown court
In his 15-year career, Becker won Wimbledon three times, with the first arriving in 1985 as a 17-year-old, when he became the youngest ever men’s champion and the first to win it unseeded. He also won two Australian Open titles, and the US version once. In total he won 49 titles from 77 finals appearances.
He was the golden boy of tennis for a sustained period of time, but through combinations of mixing with the wrong people, taking bad advice, and some questionable choices, he allowed his vast fortune to be swallowed up, until he reached the point of where he felt the need to try and protect his dwindling wealth; but he may have put too much trust and reliance on advisors, who were happy to push his financial woes further into difficulties, when taking their slice of his riches.
Where did all the money go?
At Southwark Crown Court earlier this year he told the jury at his case that his career earnings of $50m (about £38 million at that time) were spent on an expensive divorce from his first wife Barbara, a German-American designer, former actress, and model in 2001; plus child maintenance payments, and “expensive lifestyle commitments”, including his £22,000-a-month rented home in Wimbledon, south-west London.
The trial also heard that father of four Becker had a taste for designer clothes, and spent thousands on his children’s school fees; but it was revealed that his income had “reduced dramatically” following his retirement in 1999.
24 charges brought against Becker
The court were to hear that Mr Becker’s bankruptcy was in part a consequence of borrowing £1.2 million, that carried a 25% interest rate, from the billionaire founder of Phones 4u John Cauldwell in 2014; as well as a €4.6m (£3.85m) loan from private bank Arbuthnot Latham the previous year.
Amongst the 24 charges were accusations of concealing €1.13m (£945,000) from the sale of a Mercedes car dealership he owned in Germany and of transferring funds to other bank accounts. He also allegedly failed to declare two German properties, as well as his interest in a flat in Chelsea, west London, and was alleged to have hidden a €825,000 (£690,000) bank loan.
Suspended sentence given to him twenty years ago for other financial issues
His finances had come under legal scrutiny not long after he finished playing. In 2002, a Munich court fined Becker €300,000 (£250,000 at that time) and handed him a two-year suspended prison sentence for tax evasion of €1.7m. The court’s registrar said of the German back then: “One has the impression of a man with his head buried in the sand.”
Bizarre claim for diplomatic immunity
Just one year later, in a extraordinary sequence of events, Becker declared diplomatic immunity against further attempts to pursue him over debt. His lawyers said he was a sport and culture attaché of the Central African Republic (CAR), and while the CAR embassy in Belgium were prepared to confirm the fact that they had issued him with a diplomatic passport, it transpired this was all fake. Shortly afterwards Becker dropped his bizarre claim to diplomatic immunity.
Judge critical of lack of humility and remorse at sentencing
So eventually it all caught up with the troubled ex-sportsman, and his defence team attempted to paint their client in a better light by highlighting mitigating factors. They drew attention to his dramatic change in fortune, pointing out what amounted to “public humiliation”, for someone who had a glittering sporting career.
That had little impact on the Judge, Deborah Taylor, who was critical of Becker’s lack of remorse or acceptance of guilt, which she found him to be culpable for the transferring hundreds of thousands of pounds from his business account after his bankruptcy, failing to declare a property in Germany, and concealing €825,000 of debt.
Referring back to Becker’s previous conviction for tax evasion in Germany in 2002, she told the former world number one: “You did not heed the warning you were given and the chance you were given by the suspended sentence and that is a significant aggravating factor.” He could have received a much stiffer sentence, so 30 months could be considered in some respects as “getting off lightly”.
Much publicised liaison in the cupboard has lasting consequences
Not long after he stopped playing, Becker’s private life came under intense scrutiny in the tabloids, although to be fair he was never too far away from it at any time. His marriage to Barbara collapsed amid claims of infidelity, including an infamous ‘hook-up’ in the broom cupboard of a London restaurant with a Russian model, who later gave birth to their daughter.
Personality made him good TV
Despite all of the headlines that his turbulent personal life generated, he had a charm and charisma about him which made him a popular pundit on TV channels around the world, including the BBC on regular occasions during the two weeks of Wimbledon.
He served for a spell as head of men’s tennis at the German Tennis Association. Perhaps most notably, for the three years that he coached no less than Novak Djokovic, during which time the brilliant Serb won six of his many Grand Slam titles.
Irony of UK’s current financial situation should not be lost on Boris Becker
Now he is out, on license it should be stressed, he might see some irony in the fact that the prosecution brought against him was instigated by the Insolvency Service, acting on the behalf of the then Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, none other than Mr Kwasi Kwarteng.
The very same gentleman whose min-budget, or “fiscal event” as he liked to call it, in his brief but disastrous 38-day role as Chancellor, had such a devastating effect on the UK economy that it very nearly brought the entire UK to its knees. Such was his recklessness, miss-management, and incompetence with the country’s finances, it is going to take years for a recovery to even begin to take place.
Boris Becker might be forgiven for thinking he had to serve eight months behind bars for what could be seen as far less serious offences.