LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Becker, the six-time Grand Slam tennis champion, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in his bankruptcy proceedings on Friday after he was found guilty of hiding millions of dollars worth of assets by a London court and borrowing to avoid paying his debts.
The ruling marked a surprise fall from grace for Mr Becker, 54, who turned his tennis skills, exuberant personality and business ambitions into a personal fortune before appearing at Southwark Crown Court this month on four counts related to his bankruptcy in June was found guilty in 2017.
The bankruptcy case meant that Mr. Becker was legally required to disclose all of his assets so they could be used to pay his creditors, but the court found several instances where he had failed to meet his disclosure obligations.
Mr. Becker failed to disclose a property he owned in his home country of Germany, concealed a €825,000 (approximately $872,000) loan and assets valued at €426,930.90 and failed to disclose shares in a gambling technology company, according to the British Insolvency Service. He was acquitted of 20 other charges related to his bankruptcy.
Mr. Becker made tennis history in 1985 when, at the age of 17, he became the youngest champion in men’s singles history at Wimbledon. He won two more times there, in 1986 and 1989, and won three more Grand Slam singles titles: the US Open in 1989 and the Australian Open in 1991 and 1996. In 1999 he retired from professional tennis.
The tennis star not only attracted enormous attention with his successes on the court. The tabloids also kept tabs on his turbulent love life, including a divorce and a fleeting affair with a Russian woman, with whom he fathered a child.
Mr. Becker’s precarious financial situation has been under scrutiny for several years.
In 2017, a private bank in London, Arbuthnot Latham, filed for bankruptcy proceedings against Mr Becker, claiming that a large debt he owed was nearly two years overdue. He was soon officially declared bankrupt by a London court, which found he was unable to repay his debts.
That same year, a Swiss court dismissed a lawsuit brought by a former Swiss business partner who claimed Mr. Becker owed him more than $40 million.
In 2018, as he fended off his creditors, Mr Becker tried to claim diplomatic immunity because the Central African Republic had made him theirs Attaché to the European Union for sports, culture and humanitarian affairs.
If that request had been upheld, any lawsuit against Mr Becker would have required the approval of the Foreign Secretary, who at the time was Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister. But Mr. Becker eventually dropped the lawsuit.
In 2002, Mr. Becker was sentenced in Germany to a two-year suspended sentence and a fine of nearly $300,000 for income tax evasion. The verdict came six years after German tax investigators searched Mr Becker’s home in Munich.
Mr. Becker is said to have won prize money and sponsorship contracts in the millions. Over the years he has had several business ventures including a range of branded tennis equipment. He was a frequent TV commentator for the BBC at Wimbledon and for a number of years coached Novak Djokovic, the world’s top men’s singles player.
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