Former Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has bought 63m Force Blue, which previously belonged to his friend and former partner Flavio Briatore according to Italian media, including Il Fatto Quotidiano. The boat was seized from the former manager of Benetton and Renault in 2010, as part of a €3.6m tax evasion investigation.
The sum Ecclestone offered is 490 thousand euros over the starting price, set at €7m. The estimated value of the vessel at the time of the seizure was about €20 million, almost three times more.
In recent weeks says Il Fatto Quotidiano, Briatore’s lawyers had tried to block the auction several times, presenting three subsequent requests and an urgent appeal in both criminal and civil matters, offering – on behalf of the tycoon – to cover the costs for the storage of the yacht, without success.
The Court of Appeal decided to sell it due to the risk of deterioration to the yacht which might occur with ‘forced inactivity’. Even dry storage was deemed uneconomical. For this reason, the judges applied the rule that allows ‘to sell movable assets subject to seizure if they cannot be administered without danger of deterioration or significant diseconomies’.
The vessel had been seized as part of a tax evasion investigation on import VAT. It’s reported that Briatore had fictitiously registered Force Blue to a company based in the Cayman Islands, in order to present himself as a simple charterer and avoid the payment of taxes on fuel.
Briatore is also being investigated for corruption.