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Explained: Boris Becker’s bankruptcy, and the missing Wimbledon trophies

Last week, the 52-year-old was accused in a London court of failing to submit his Grand Slam trophies to repay his debt. He’s been fighting bankruptcy since filing for it in 2017.

Becker filed for bankruptcy at a London court in June 2017.

Until three years ago, Boris Becker was at the pinnacle of tennis. As Novak Djokovic’s coach, he helped the World No 1 win six Grand Slam titles – including a Career Grand Slam. In a way, it reflected his own genius when he was a player. But just as sudden as his rise in tennis – becoming the youngest ever Wimbledon champion at 17 in 1985 – the downfall was just as rapid. Last week, the 52-year-old was accused in a London court of failing to submit his Grand Slam trophies to repay his debt. He’s been fighting bankruptcy since filing for it in 2017. But there have been a decent number of twists in Becker’s financial saga.

What has Boris Becker been accused of?

A total of 28 charges were levied against Becker at the Southwark Crown Court in London on Thursday. One of the charges includes the failure to produce his Wimbledon trophies from the 1985 and 1989 Championships, along with his Australian Open titles from 1991 and 1996. He’s also been accused of hiding over GBP 1 million (over INR 9.6 crore) in bank accounts, along with transferring “hundreds of thousands of pounds” in the accounts of his former wife Barbara Becker, and estranged wife Sharlely ‘Lilly’ Becker, as reported by the BBC.

Furthermore, the six-time Grand Slam champion had failed to disclose property in London, his home town Leimen in Germany, and a few more abroad. The next hearing will be in September next year.

When did he file for bankruptcy?

Becker filed for bankruptcy at a London court in June 2017. At the time, he owed a private banking firm, Arbuthnot Latham & Co, what The Guardian estimated was around GBP 3.3 million (over Rs 31 crore). He had allegedly crossed the repayment deadline by over two years in 2017, and had asked the bank to delay filing a lawsuit against him for 28 days. In the interim, he hoped to sell his property in Mallorca to repay a part of the debt. However, the bank’s registrar reportedly refused, stating that “(one) has the impression of a man with his head in the sand.” 📣 Click to follow Express Explained on Telegram

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Did Boris Becker make any attempts to gather funds?

Yes. He held an auction that began in June 2018. The idea was to raise funds to repay the debt by selling memorabilia from his playing days – including trophies and kits. In all, he had 82 items up for sale. The most expensive purchase was his US Open trophy from 1989, which he won by beating Ivan Lendl in the final. It sold in July 2019 for GBP 150,250 (Rs 1.44 crore). He also managed to sell a replica of a Davis Cup trophy he won, for GBP 52,100 (just over Rs 50 lakh).

In all, the auction raise over GBP 680,000 (Rs 6.5 crore).

What has Boris Becker done to avoid the lawsuit from the bank?

The most eye-raising thing the German did was claim diplomatic immunity. In April 2018, Becker claimed he had been appointed the Sport and Culture Attache to the European Union by the Central African Republic (CAR) – a landlocked country in central Africa.

According to rules established at the 1961 Vienna Convention, international diplomats are immune from prosecution in a host country – which includes criminal and civil proceedings. However, Cherubin Moroubama, CAR foreign ministry’s chief of staff, told Agence-France Presse (AFP): “The diplomatic passport that (Becker) has is a fake.”

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He further explained that the serial number on the passport Becker possessed was from a batch that was stolen in 2014. Furthermore, Moroubama asserted that the position the German claimed he had from the CAR “does not exist.” Curiously, there have been a host of individuals who have cited diplomatic immunity from CAR to avoid prosecution in Europe, including a former advisor to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Is this Boris Becker’s first case of debt?

Since he retired in 1999, the German has struggled with his finances – be it through alimony or failed businesses. During his playing days, he won $25,080,956 in prize money according to his ATP profile, and there have been estimates that his total wealth might have crossed $130 million (over Rs 958 crore according to today’s exchange rate) through endorsement deals.

In 2001, however, the German government had accused him of tax evasion estimated between GBP 3.2 million to GBP 10 million (over Rs 30 crore and Rs 96 crore respectively, according to today’s exchange rate). At the time, Becker had claimed he was living at his home in Monaco – a tax-free haven. However, he had reportedly been seen often at his apartment in Munich, leading investigators to believe he had indeed been staying in Germany, and was hence subject to German taxes

First published on: 27-10-2020 at 19:22 IST
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