TENNIS

Boris Becker faces possible jail term after guilty verdicts

By: Agence France Presse - Inquirer.net | April 29,2022 - 04:06 PM

German tennis legend Boris Becker leavews Westminster Magistrates court in central London after being declared bankrupt and accused of not complying with obligations to disclose information on September 24, 2020. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

Former tennis star Boris Becker will learn on Friday whether he faces a lengthy jail term after he was found guilty by a British court of charges relating to his 2017 bankruptcy.

The six-time Grand Slam champion, 54, was convicted over his transfer of huge amounts of money from his business account, failing to declare a property in Germany and concealing 825,000 euros ($866,500) of debt and shares in a tech firm.

But he was acquitted at Southwark Crown Court earlier this month of a further 20 charges, including nine counts of failing to hand over trophies and medals he won during his glittering tennis career.

He told jurors he did not know the whereabouts of the memorabilia, including two of his three Wimbledon men’s singles trophies.

Judge Deborah Taylor released Becker — who won Wimbledon as an unseeded teenager — on conditional bail ahead of Friday’s sentencing hearing at the south London court.

The former world number one told the jury how his $50 million ($40 million) career earnings were swallowed up by an expensive divorce from his first wife Barbara Becker, child maintenance payments and “expensive lifestyle commitments”.

Becker said he was “shocked” and “embarrassed” when he was declared bankrupt in June 2017 over an unpaid loan of more than £3 million on his estate in Mallorca, Spain.

The German, who has lived in Britain since 2012, said he had cooperated with trustees trying to secure his assets, even offering his wedding ring, and relied on the advisers who managed his life away from tennis.

But the former player, who was supported in court by his partner Lilian de Carvalho Monteiro and eldest son Noah, was found guilty of four charges under the Insolvency Act.

 ‘Vast amount’

Giving evidence, Becker said he earned a “vast amount” of money during his career, paying cash for several properties.

But the German, who went on to coach current world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic, work as a TV sports commentator and act as a brand ambassador for firms including Puma, said his income “reduced dramatically” following his retirement in 1999.

Becker, who was resident in Monte Carlo and Switzerland before moving to the UK, said his financial commitments included his £22,000-a-month rented house in Wimbledon, south-west London.

He also owed the Swiss authorities five million francs (about $5.1 million) and separately just under one million euros in liabilities over a conviction for tax evasion and attempted tax evasion in Germany in 2002.

He said bad publicity had damaged “brand Becker”, meaning he struggled to make enough money to pay off his debts.

His lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw said at the time of his bankruptcy that Becker was too “trusting and reliant” on his advisers.

Becker, with a shock of strawberry-blond hair, shook up the tennis world in 1985 when he became Wimbledon’s youngest men’s singles champion at 17 — repeating the feat the following year.

Nicknamed “Boom Boom” Becker for his ferocious serve, he won Wimbledon for a third time in 1989.

He also won the Australian Open twice and the US Open during his glittering career, becoming the top-ranked player in the world in 1991.

Becker turned to commentary after his retirement, landing a high-profile role on the BBC, but he returned to the court in 2013 as the coach of Djokovic, helping the Serb win six more Grand Slam trophies before the pair parted ways in 2016.

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