Socialite James Stunt tells court he loved heiress wife, ‘not her bank account’

He tells money-laundering trial he was 'not a kept man' during his marriage to Petra Ecclestone

James Stunt arrives at the court in Leeds in May. PA
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Socialite James Stunt loved his ex-wife Petra Ecclestone, “not her bank account”, he told a court during his trial on money-laundering charges.

Mr Stunt, 40, at one time the son-in-law of F1 billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, is one of eight people accused of being part of the gang.

Prosecutors at Leeds Cloth Hall Court previously claimed Mr Stunt may have got involved in the alleged network because the breakdown of his marriage to the heiress meant the “river of money” from her family was “running dry”.

On Wednesday Mr Stunt told the court he was “not a kept man” during his marriage.

“I had a very rich wife and I was doing all right myself,” he said. “I'm not comparing myself to Bernie Ecclestone — he's one of the richest men in the world.”

Mr Stunt told jurors Ms Ecclestone's family were “very controlling of our marriage” and that their three children “had to be born in the UK for tax reasons”.

“It was against mine and Petra's wishes but that's the kind of power Bernie had over our marriage,” he told the court.

This photo of gold bars was shown to the jury in Leeds. CPS

Heidi Buckler, 45, Greg Frankel, 44, Paul Miller, 45, Haroon Rashid, 51, Daniel Rawson, 45, Francesca Sota, 34, Mr Stunt, 40 and Alesancer Tulloch, 41, all deny money laundering. Mr Stunt and Ms Sota also deny forgery.

The jury has heard the alleged operation led to £266 million ($302 million) being deposited in the bank account of Bradford gold dealer Fowler Oldfield from 2014 to 2016.

Prosecutors say “criminal cash” was brought from all over the country to Fowler Oldfield's premises in Bradford, West Yorkshire, before the scheme “went national” and Mr Stunt's offices in London also started receiving money.

Mr Stunt became tearful when he spoke about his brother Lee Stunt, who he said died in 2017 while trying to clear their names.

Jurors have heard Lee Stunt was involved in the management of Stunt and Co — the business prosecutors allege was used to collect and count the criminal cash.

He said: “My brother was the nicest person I have ever met and for these slanderous charges — I don't mind for me — but he's not here to defend it himself.”

Asked by his barrister Richard Fisher KC whether he had ever sought attention, Mr Stunt said: “I'm not a Kardashian, I've never done anything to achieve fame.

“Wow, I have some money, I married a famous man's daughter. That wasn't what I wanted, I loved my wife, I didn't love her bank account.”

He agreed that he was ostentatious but said “there's no maliciousness behind it. I'm a giver, not a receiver”.

“If you've got it, flaunt it, if you haven't, well, you can always make more,” he said.

Mr Stunt said his father grew up in a council estate in Brixton: “By the time me and my brother were born he was already a very wealthy, self-made man.”

He told jurors he grew up between Belgravia and “quite an exclusive country club”, and was “politely asked to leave” one of his schools because his ADHD was disrupting the classroom.

Mr Stunt said he was on medication for ADHD and to help with a benzodiazepine addiction that started after he suffered a panic attack at the Monza Grand Prix in 2008.

The trial continues.

Updated: October 26, 2022, 2:57 PM