Socialite James Stunt broke down in tears as he admitted taking cocaine ‘every day for two years’ and gave evidence in court about his late brother Lee.
The 40-year-old, who faces £266m money-laundering charges, said through tears that his brother was ‘the nicest person I’ve ever known and I can’t bear to hear these slanderous charges against him in court when he can’t be here to defend himself.’
Stunt, giving evidence for the first time as his defence case opened in the long-running trial, told the jury he has been addicted to morphine, cocaine and gambling and has ‘an addictive personality’.
The former husband of Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone is one of eight defendants on trial over an alleged network which the court heard saw millions of pounds deposited in the bank account of Bradford gold dealer Fowler Oldfield over two years.
Prosecutors claim the ‘criminal cash’ was brought into business addresses owned or managed by Stunt and his co-defendants between January 2014 and September 2016.
Stunt said he was a ‘functioning addict’ at times, and the drugs had helped him at various moments including his divorce and the death of his brother Lee in 2016.
He said following his brother’s death he took cocaine ‘every day for two years’ and described the drug as a ‘good, bad friend’.
He recalled a panic attack at the Monza Grand Prix when his then father-in-law Bernie Ecclestone told him ‘James, you’re having a panic attack.
‘I didn’t know what was happening, and neither did my wife,’ he said. ‘And the Grand Prix doctor just shoved an injection into me.’
But he said for the last two years, he had been ‘clean’ and said he took regular urine tests with a doctor ‘for the sake of my children’.
Socialite James Stunt, 40, is the former husband of Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone and facing trial over an alleged network which the court heard saw millions of pounds deposited in the bank account of Bradford gold dealer Fowler Oldfield over two years
Lee Stunt, the late brother of James, (pictured seated) was alleged to have been involved in the money laundering operation. Mr Stunt broke down in court today as he slammed the ‘slanderous charges’ against his late sibling
Stunt is the ex-husband of F1 heiress Petra Ecclestone, who he is pictured with
Stunt said at one stage in his life ‘I was the second biggest gambler in the world, the biggest blackjack player in the world. ‘I might gamble £5m in an evening and lose £400,000.
‘I’m all in, I’m a black and white person.’
He said he was ‘awful with dates and terrible with numbers’ and suffers from ADHD, dyscalcula and dyslexia, and takes Ritalin for the ADHD.
He told the court ‘I am not a glib, arrogant man’ and said that he used humour as a ‘coping mechanism’ to avoid getting angry ‘after hearing some of the slanderous things said in this court about my brother’.
The court has heard that Stunt took ‘a very hands-on approach’ as his company became involved in the ‘sophisticated’ £266million money-laundering operation, prosecutors.
Leeds Cloth Hall Court previously heard that hundreds of thousands of pounds at a time was brought in carrier bags and holdalls to Fowler Oldfield in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
Prosecutor Nicholas Clarke KC has said the defendants hid the origin of the money by washing it through a company bank account and using the proceeds to buy gold.
On Wednesday jurors were shown messages between Stunt’s employees and co-defendants Alex Tulloch and Francesca Sota, and staff at Fowler Oldfield. The court heard one message from Tulloch in November 2015 said: ‘James not happy though… James wants to know what his profit is for this week. Concerned about profitability etc.’
The court was told another message from Tulloch in April 2016, when Stunt was living out of the country, said: ‘Ensure that I get updated at least daily on £ in London and Bradford. Gold sold: Lock ins (Scotia), Cookson’s, Dubai. Refining: Any material coming out of the refinery.’
Mr Clarke said this showed Stunt was ‘taking a very hands-on approach even though he was a very long way away at the time’.
Lee Stunt was found dead at his mother’s home in Surrey after taking a number of drugs, an inquest heard in 2017
He said that Stunt was the owner and director of Stunt & Co but ‘delegated much of the responsibility to others’.
The prosecutor told the court: ‘He was not involved in the day-to-day management of the buying and selling of gold and was not included in most of the correspondence via electronic means.
‘However, emails between others demonstrate that he was very much aware of and authorised what was going on.’
Jurors were told the alleged money laundering then ‘went national’ as one of Fowler Oldfield’s directors, Greg Frankel, became a vice president of Stunt & Co, and Stunt’s premises in London also started receiving cash.
Five defendants from Fowler Oldfield – Greg Frankel, Daniel Rawson, Paul Miller, Heidi Buckler and Haroon ‘Harry’ Rashid – all say the prosecution cannot prove that any of the cash was criminal property.
Stunt and the defendants from his company – Tulloch and Sota – say they ‘don’t know whether it was’, the court has heard.
James Stunt, 40, the ex-husband of F1 heiress Petra Ecclestone, is standing trial alongside seven other defendants
James Stunt is pictured standing next to girlfriend Helena Robinson outside Leeds Cloth Hall Court today in May earlier this year
But prosecutors say it is ‘blindingly obvious this was criminal cash’ and each of the defendants ‘must at the very least have suspected that the source of the money was criminal in origin’.
Jurors were told West Yorkshire Police launched Operation Larkshot to investigate large amounts of cash being credited to the bank account of Fowler Oldfield and collected from three sites – Fowler Oldfield’s own premises, the offices of James Stunt in central London and a new company called Pure Nines in Hatton Garden.
Mr Clarke said substantial amounts of cash were being paid into a bank account of Fowler Oldfield Limited from 2014.
He told jurors they aroused the suspicions of bank staff because ‘they were of such an amount, on a daily basis, as may come from a Premier League football stadium on a match day or similar size venue or event’.
The wider investigation discovered that from January 1 2014 until September 16 2016, more than £266million in cash and unknown deposits were paid into the Fowler Oldfield bank account, the court heard.
Buckler, 45, Frankel, 44, Miller, 45, Rashid, 51, Rawson, 45, Sota, 34, Stunt, 40 and Tulloch, 41, all deny money laundering.
Stunt and Sota also deny forgery.
Stunt married Ms Ecclestone, daughter of F1 tycoon Bernie Ecclestone, in Italy in 2011. They had three children together but divorced in 2017.
Stunt became agitated as he spoke of his public image and accused the media of ‘gaslighting’ him.
‘I’m nothing like the man you see portrayed.
‘What I see in the press is a berk, a pratt, I’d like to punch him, then I think “Oh my god, it’s me”’.
He said he was a private man and compared his public portrayal to tragic Love Island presenter Caroline Flack who committed suicide.
Fighting back tears, he recalled the incident in 2020 when he and his girlfriend Helena Robinson were held up by masked gunmen at his home and stole a £500,000 watch.
‘I was pistol-whipped and garrotted and Miss Robinson had a gun pointed at her head,’ he told the court. ‘But we were mocked by the global media – they haven’t learnt from Caroline Flack.
‘It’s literally a shame on them, I don’t know how people can be so blind.’
Ever since the pistol-whipping, he said he has suffered from vertigo as a result of a eustachian tube dysfunction and told the jury that he had to make frequent trips to the lavatory during the court case to ‘clear the passage’.
Stunt said he was expelled from his public school, Bradfield College, but in 2017 he returned there and donated around £250,000 for the school to build a ‘Stunt Pavilion’ in the grounds.
He said the teacher who expelled him for being a disruptive influence, his old housemaster Stuart Williams was surprised at his return to the school as an adult.
Stunt told the jury: ‘Looking back I realised was metaphorically spitting in this man’s face when he was actually trying to help me.’
He said he regards Mr Williams ‘as one of the greatest people I have ever known’ and he was now godfather to Stunt’s son, James Jr.