If convicted, he could theoretically face up to seven years in prison.
London. The criminal trial against former tennis star Boris Becker began in London on Monday. He has to answer there for concealing assets during his bankruptcy. Becker seemed focused as the indictment was read out against him on the first day of the trial at Southwark Crown Court. The 54-year-old German stood upright in his glass case in the middle of the courtroom, as if he had to parry an opponent’s serve on the tennis court.
His own face was reflected in the pane in front of his eyes – behind those sat those on whom Becker’s future now depends decisively: the judge and the lawyers with their powdered wigs, on the side the jury. A good dozen journalists had gathered in the spectator stands behind the former tennis star.
“The Queen against Boris Franz Becker”
“The Queen v Boris Franz Becker” (The Queen against Boris Franz Becker) – that’s what it says above the summary of the indictment, which was distributed to the reporters present. As head of state, the Queen is representative of the British state. The seven-page document lists 24 points that, for Becker, could make the difference between freedom and prison. Theoretically, he could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.
“Mr. Becker has behaved disingenuously with regard to a number of assets,” said the prosecutor on Monday. It involves millions of dollars in funds transferred to other accounts, undisclosed properties, stocks and trophies, which the indictment says were withdrawn from the bankruptcy trustee’s reach. For example, the trophy from his victory at the Australian Open in 1996. Becker denies the allegations and pleaded innocent on all counts.
Becker appeared with his partner
At the start of the process in the morning, the Londoner by choice appeared with his partner. The last few meters before entering the courthouse, she held his hand. But there was no celebrity bonus for the three-time Wimbledon winner in the simple brick building. Like all other visitors, witnesses and journalists, he had to stand in a long queue and undergo a complex security check. Court officials picked up the contents of his gray trolley, let him drink from a bottle he had brought with him and scanned his body for suspicious objects, as a dpa reporter observed. Becker endured the minute-long procedure in a dark blue suit and black sneakers.
“Don’t let the defendant’s celebrity distract you,” the judge instructed the jury. Becker is well-known and popular in his adopted country of England and has been a frequent face on BBC television as a Wimbledon commentator for years.
“I hope that the judge and the twelve jury members will come to a fair verdict,” Becker said to “Bild am Sonntag” last month and was confident. He “basically always believes in the good and in English jurisdiction,” said the ex-tennis star at the time. Until a decision is made, however, Becker will have to endure a period of uncertainty. The process is scheduled to take up to three weeks.
Corona has the main witness
It was initially unclear whether the process could proceed as planned. The background is that the most important witness for the prosecution, insolvency administrator Mark Ford, fell ill with Covid-19. The witness suffered from a headache, felt light-headed and tired, according to the public prosecutor. The defense, however, advocated sticking to the schedule because it was not clear how long it would be before Ford could appear in court. The court therefore withdrew from the consultation shortly after the trial began, but initially did not announce a decision. The proceedings were initially continued on Monday with statements by the public prosecutor’s office.
Becker was declared bankrupt by a London court in 2017. Although a personal bankruptcy in England can usually be completed within 12 months, the process has been going on ever since. Various conditions against Becker were even extended to a period of twelve years.