Former tennis ace Boris Becker jailed over UK bankruptcy case

Six-time Grand Slam champion said his $50m career earnings were swallowed up by ‘expensive divorce’ and debts.

German tennis great Boris Becker has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison by a court in London for illicitly transferring large amounts of money and hiding assets after he was declared bankrupt.

Judge Deborah Taylor announced the sentence on Friday after hearing arguments from the prosecutor and Becker’s lawyer at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

Becker, who was previously handed a two-year suspended sentence for tax evasion and attempted tax evasion in Germany in 2002, was found guilty of four offences under the United Kingdom’s Insolvency Act earlier this month.

“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,” the judge said referring to Becker’s previous conviction.

“I take into account what has been described as your fall from grace,” the judge continued.

“You have lost your career and reputation and all of your property as a result of your bankruptcy.”

But she added: “You have not shown remorse, acceptance of your guilt and have sought to distance yourself from your offending and your bankruptcy.”

“While I accept the humiliation you have felt as a result of these proceedings, you have shown no humility.”

Becker’s bankruptcy stemmed from a 4.6 million euro ($5m) loan from a private bank in 2013, as well as about $1.6m borrowed from a British businessman the year after, according to testimony at the trial.

During the trial, Becker said his $50m career earnings had been swallowed up by payments for an “expensive divorce” and debts when he lost large chunks of his income after retirement.

Boris Becker flies through the air to return a shot from Australia’s Wally Masur during their second-round match at Wimbledon in 1990 [File: Dave Caulkin/AP Photo]

The 54-year-old German was found to have transferred hundreds of thousands of pounds after his June 2017 bankruptcy from his business account to other accounts, including those of his ex-wife Barbara and estranged wife Sharlely “Lilly” Becker.

He was also convicted of failing to declare a property in Germany and hiding an 825,000 euro ($871,000) bank loan and shares in a tech firm.

The jury acquitted Becker on 20 other counts, including charges that he failed to hand over assets, including two Wimbledon trophies and an Olympic gold medal.

‘Public humiliation’

Becker, wearing a striped tie in Wimbledon’s purple and green colours, walked into the court hand-in-hand with girlfriend Lilian de Carvalho Monteiro. He showed no emotion before being taken down to the cells.

The six-time Grand Slam champion has denied all the charges, saying he had cooperated with trustees tasked with securing his assets – even offering up his wedding ring – and had acted on expert advice.

At Friday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutor Rebecca Chalkley said Becker had acted “deliberately and dishonestly” and that he was “still seeking to blame others”.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw argued for leniency, saying his client had not spent money on a “lavish lifestyle” but rather on child support, rent and legal and business expenses. Becker, he told the court, has experienced “public humiliation” and has no future earnings potential.

“Boris Becker has literally nothing and there is also nothing to show for what was the most glittering of sporting careers and that is correctly termed as nothing short of a tragedy,” he said.

Becker rose to stardom in 1985 at the age of 17 when he became the first unseeded player to win the Wimbledon singles title and later rose to the number one ranking.

He has lived in the UK since 2012.

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