Socialite James Stunt, former son-in-law of F1 tycoon Bernie Ecclestone, told a court he ‘did not know it was an offence’ to ask his personal assistant to ‘forge’ his signature so that he can buy an Andy Warhol Painting.
The 40-year-old is one of eight defendants, including his assistant Francesca Sota, charged with a multi-million pound money laundering operation.
He told jurors on Thursday that he was “a man of integrity” and “did not harm a bank.”
prosecutors at Leeds Cloth Hall Court previously claimed that during the investigation into the network, which allegedly transferred £266m to the bank account of Bradford-based gold dealer Fowler Oldfield between 2014 and 2016, “it became clear that Stunt asked Sota to forge his signature on an important financial document” in February 2015.
However, To delay called the forgery accusation “laughable”, saying “it’s my own money”.
He told court he was ‘bloated on morphine’ in a Los Angeles hospital when he emailed Sota telling him to ‘please forge my signature’ so he could withdraw £320,000 from one of his bank accounts.
He said he was in hospital with a tennis injury sustained at the Los Angeles home he shared with his then-wife. Petra Ecclestone.
“It was my first time trying morphine. I was floating on a cloud, you were throwing up and everything, but it’s a wonderful feeling,” Stunt added.
The court heard an email from Stunt to Sota saying, “Sorry to call so late, I was in the hospital, I made the payment, my bank says I have to sign something, which means that they did not, please forge my signature first thing in the morning, get Lee or testify yourself, please this must be signed and emailed to the relevant parties . Thanks x.”
It was said that Stunt later wrote, “Call me as soon as you can, I need that bank thing signed witnessed and sent or payment won’t be sent who cares!”
An email from Sota was then sent to the bank saying, “Please find attached the document signed by Mr. Stunt and myself as a witness.”
He told the court that he “made a human error and didn’t realize there weren’t enough funds in the account” he had tried to use to buy the painting. American artist.
James Stunt tells court he loved his ex Petra Ecclestone – not his bank account
Socialite accused of involvement in £266million money laundering scheme
The defendant said he “didn’t want to ‘put his assistant’ in a precarious position” and “didn’t even know it was an offence”.
He added that he believed it was part of Sota’s “duties” as a personal assistant and that businessmen, including his father and Mr Ecclestone, had stamps with their signatures.
“I thought Miss Sota had full authority with my permission to sign.
“Bernie Ecclestone does it, my dad does it, if it’s a crime you should lock up half the court.”
Stunt, 40, Heidi Buckler, 45, Greg Frankel, 44, Paul Miller, 45, Haroon Rashid, 51, Daniel Rawson, 45, Francesca Sota, 34, and Alesancer Tulloch, 41, all deny the money laundering.
Stunt and Sota also deny tampering.
The trial continues.