At 10:33 a.m. on Monday, March 21, Boris Becker entered the third courtroom at Southwark Crown Court. He is with his girlfriend Lilian de Carvalho Monteiro, who arrived at the court less than two hours ago and, like all the other guests, lined up for security. Now the former world’s number one tennis player takes his place in the dock, separated from the room by bulletproof glass. Becker is sitting in his chair in front, his knees against the wooden wall.
Above the indictment was the phrase “Queen v. Boris Becker.” The head of state has filed a lawsuit against the German tennis star. In a country where he is as popular as few other athletes, he faces seven years in prison. He was accused on 24 counts of trying to hide a fortune worth millions after the High Court in London declared him insolvent on June 21, 2017.
When Judge Deborah Taylor entered the courtroom nine minutes later, everyone present stood, then Baker’s interpreter took the oath. In Great Britain, it appeared on the front pages of the newspapers that the German needed an interpreter. No wonder, after all, he’s been commenting on Wimbledon for the BBC for exactly 20 years, and the UK capital is his home.
Claims amounting to more than 40 million euros
In the process, the question is whether the 54-year-old should go to prison. Not a single word may be misspelled or misunderstood. Jonathan Ladlow, Baker’s attorney, explained that his client’s English was “very good” but that “a lot of personal things” had to appear in his testimony. The process will be stressful for him.
In the courtroom to Becker’s left, twelve jurors will eventually have to decide whether tennis player Leimen attempted to conceal his assets so that a bankruptcy trustee, and thus Becker’s creditors, could not access them. Creditors say the unpaid amounts are more than 40 million euros.
Judge Taylor initially told the jury: “You should completely ignore the defendant’s fame and completely treat him as someone you’ve never seen and not in the public eye.” Put aside everything you’ve heard about the issue, including any biases. Start with a new, clean sheet of paper – she added.
Baker’s lawyer in no way wants a delay
Meanwhile, Baker’s position not only proves how tense the accused is. At the start of the trial, prosecutor Rebecca Chalkley explained that one of the main witnesses had contracted the coronavirus. This is Mark Ford, the bankruptcy trustee who auctioned some of his Baker’s prizes nearly three years ago. In the summer of 2019, almost 750 thousand zlotys were collected. The euro, thanks to which Germany was able to settle at least some of its debts.
But Baker’s defense attorney does not want to delay. “We want to get the most out of these three weeks,” Laidlaw says. The lawyer says witness Mark Ford may be suffering from complications of his illness, and then the trial will continue indefinitely. It is not yet known whether the trial will be postponed for this reason.
In interviews in recent months, Baker has been modest, even penetrative. – I’ve done a lot in my life. Probably more than most people my age. I had my ups and downs – Baker admitted in an interview with the “Sunday Times” last summer. I never thought you shouldn’t cross the road at a red light. I’m skipping the limits to see how far I can go – I like to get to the edges. I run as fast as I can and as much as I can – he added.
“I’m not broke”
The six-time Grand Slam winner says bankruptcy is against his personal property, not his business. A father of four from three different unions, he still lives a comfortable life between London and Dubai, where he plans to open a tennis academy. – I have been working for five years, I have a good income and can afford the cost of living. I’m not broke. I deal with personal insolvency, not with commercial insolvency. This does not apply to my company, Becker told Bild am Sonntag in early February.
Clause 16 of the claim also contains nine awards lost from the bankruptcy trustee. Among them is the Wimbledon Cup from 1985, when the 17-year-old entered the tennis paradise without qualifications. He also missed the 1989 Cup and the 1991 Australian Open. So far, Becker has claimed that valuable trophies have been “lost”.
Meanwhile, Baker has been making headlines for two decades due to tax evasion and bankruptcy lawsuits. Over the next three weeks, the former tennis star and his lawyer will have to convince a London jury that Baker transferred private assets without malicious intent after Britain’s bankruptcy. This time, the stakes are much greater than the money. This is the real end of the game.
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