I suppose it posed the question and credibility of why a man should place into a trust (from which he can neither benefit nor control) so much of his wealth. Leaving so little that he has to rely on the largess of an ex-wife to the tune of an untaxed £/$100m a year from that self same trust to keep his body and soul nourished?
Now while Panorama were certainly a little short of information but they highlighted fraud/evasion concerns that HMRC would not only be aware of also be considering an intervention in Ecclestone's tax affairs in the light of the earlier revelations of the trusts administrators.
But as a very senior tax specialist commented to me yesterday "while the programme failed to be specific enough on detail to draw conclusions, what was patently obvious is the whole thing stinks". Furthermore she informs me that in fraud cases HMRC are not 'time barred' so they can and will go back as far as it takes dependent on the evidence and the possibility of winning the case.
Now Ecclestone has been branded a liar by one UK High Court Judge and currently charged in a Munich trial with bribery, why limit discussion on the breath of Mr Ecclestone's other indiscretions? To ignore them and the character traits he ably demonstrates in allegedly fiddling his and F1's tax liability is nonsensical and while often it's seen as a victimless crime but those millions or billions could have been put to better use in our hospitals rather then funding the Ecclestone family's extravagant life style through fraud.
I think, in retrospect, that if the HMRC starts new investigations into Bernie's taxdealings, Panorama did offer some nails to the coffin...
Furthermore, I agree on the general assesment you and your learned friend made of the program. It was a journalistic program for the broad public, not a file for tax-attorneys and not even for F1 anoraks. It painted in broad strokes how Ecclestone has organised his financial life... wether or not he is convicted, at least for the public the program offers enough material to debate the question: legal or illegal, is this morally acceptable behaviour?
Perhaps posters will say: 'But that is not the question we are debating?' Well... yes. Because in matters like these the general consensus does matter in the end. I believe it was Karl Popper who said that shifts in paradigms do not occur because of new found facts (... because the facts are already there), but because society as a whole is ready for the change.
I sounded a bit like Ron Dennis there... I mean to say: wether or not the HMRC starts digging in to this pile of .... again has certainly to do with general consensus about the moral aspects of Bernie's behaviour, and I dare say that also the case in Germany is heavily influenced by the changing view on 'the rich' and their behaviour.