British Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says the tax avoidance accusations against him as part of the so-called Paradise Papers leaks will not distract him from the remaining races of the season.
Hamilton has been accused of avoiding tax by using supposedly artificial shell companies to gain a £3.3 million [US$4.4 million] tax refund when he imported a luxury jet into England in 2013.
His representatives have denied the accusations, and said any tax arrangements as part of the import of the $21.6 million Bombardier jet were deemed lawful by tax barristers.
Speaking in Sao Paulo on Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton addressed the issue and rejected any talk that it would distract him from his job.
“I’ve come from this great period of time with my family and friends that have this huge wave of positivity. Nothing can really dent that,” Hamilton said, as quoted by AP.
“I am solely focused on the race this weekend, and we have two races to go. That doesn’t distract me from my core values and what I am here to do.”
Hamilton wrapped up his fourth F1 world title in Mexico on October 29, but the tax dodging accusations have since emerged as part of the Paradise Papers leaks into the financial affairs of some of the world’s wealthiest people.
The F1 star, 32, reportedly gained the VAT [value-added tax] benefit by essentially leasing the aircraft to himself and taking advantage of an Isle of Man law that allows full refunds on the import of jets that are leased by businesses, rather than for personal use.
Documents seen by the BBC’s Panorama program supposedly indicate that the Mercedes driver uses the jet for personal reasons around one third of the time.
Hamilton’s representatives say it is not correct to say that he did not pay VAT on the jet, and the driver himself has said he leaves the day-to-day running of his business affairs to advisers. There is no suggestion that Hamilton was personally involved in setting up any of the arrangements.
Hamilton is the UK’s richest sportsperson, with an estimate fortune of £130 million. He has lived abroad since 2007 – first in Switzerland and now in Monaco.
After Brazil, the F1 season concludes in Abu Dhabi on November 26.