Boris Becker “acted dishonestly” when he failed to hand over nine trophies and medals won during his illustrious tennis career to pay his debts, a British court was told.
The 54-year-old former world number one was declared bankrupt in 2017 after borrowing around £3.5 million ($4.6 million) from private bank Arbuthnot Latham for a property in Mallorca, Spain, a jury was told.
The six-time Grand Slam champion, accused of hiding or failing to hand over assets before and after his bankruptcy, is on trial in London charged with 24 counts relating to the period between May and October 2017.
Prosecutor Rebecca Chalkley said the assets include silverware such as the 1985 and 1989 Wimbledon trophies, Becker’s Australian Open trophies from 1991 and 1996 and his 1992 Olympic men’s doubles gold medal.
The German, who commentated for the BBC at Wimbledon last year, is accused of concealing 1.13 million euros ($1.25 million) from the sale of a car dealership he owned in Germany and transferring funds to another bank accounts.
He also allegedly failed to declare two German properties, as well as his interest in a flat in London, and hid an 825,000-euro bank loan.
“It is the prosecution case that Mr Becker acted dishonestly with regards to a number of his assets, that in various ways he effectively hid from, or made unavailable to, those responsible for identifying the assets,” said Chalkley.
“The prosecution say Mr Becker did this both before and after the date of his bankruptcy agreement by not disclosing, not providing, or delivering up, or removing assets or things of value.”
Becker, who won 49 singles titles during his 16 years as a professional player, arrived at Southwark Crown Court in south London, hand in hand with his partner Lilian de Carvalho Monteiro.
The trial is expected to last for up to three weeks.
The 54-year-old, a six-time Grand Slam singles champion, faces a maximum of seven years in prison if he is found guilty.
The court was told in preliminary hearings that Becker owned a flat in Chelsea, London, as well as two properties in Germany, which were undeclared between June and October 2017.
He is accused of removing hundreds of thousands of pounds by transferring it to other accounts, including to former wife Barbara Becker and estranged wife Sharlely Becker.
Becker also hid 75,000 shares in the AI firm Breaking Data Corp, the court was told.
He denies seven charges of concealing property, two counts of removing property required by the receiver, five counts of failing to disclose details of his estate and one count of concealing debt.
He also denies nine counts of failing to disclose the trophies.
Becker, who lives in London, will use an interpreter when giving evidence in a trial expected to last three weeks, even though his barrister admits his English is “very good”.
It is yet another curious chapter in the life of one of tennis’s most troubled personalities.
Aged just 17, Becker burst onto the scene in 1985 when he became Wimbledon’s youngest singles champion and the first unseeded player to lift the trophy at the All England Club.
Becker’s dynamic play and boyish enthusiasm — best captured in his penchant for spectacular diving volleys — made him the darling of Wimbledon crowds.
– Steep decline –
He successfully defended his Wimbledon title a year later, thrashing world number one Ivan Lendl in straight sets in the final.
Becker’s ferocious serve led to the nickname ‘Baby Boom Boom’ and ‘Der Bomber’.
In 1989, Becker won Wimbledon for the third time and claimed his first US Open title just months later.
His long chase to become world number one paid off in 1991 when he won the Australian Open for the first time, beating Lendl in the final to move to the top of the rankings.
Becker’s greatest moment would prove to be the start of his steep decline.
Prone to emotional outbursts on the court, Becker frequently lost matches that were in his grasp and earned numerous fines for smashing his racquet.
Those tantrums were public displays of the volatile personality that made it difficult for Becker to stay at the top of his game.
By 1993, Becker was embroiled in tax problems with the German government, while his last Wimbledon final ended in defeat against Pete Sampras in 1995.
Becker lifted his final Grand Slam title at the 1996 Australian Open before retiring three years later having won 49 singles titles.
He kept in touch with tennis as a television commentator and served as Novak Djokovic’s coach from 2013 to 2016, helping the Serb successfully challenge Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s dominance.
But his private life was frequently in turmoil, featuring marriage splits and a bizarre incident when he claimed to be the Central African Republic’s attache for sports, culture and humanitarian affairs to the European Union.
Becker’s lawyer argued the role gave him diplomatic immunity from being pursued for further debt payments, but he later dropped the claim.
In 2002, a court in Munich sentenced Becker to a two-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 300,000 euros ($330,000) for tax evasion of around 1.7 million euros.
Becker was declared bankrupt five years ago, setting in motion a chain of events that leaves the tennis icon fighting to avoid a lengthy spell behind bars.