James Stunt told a jury about his ‘fight for survival’ when he was made ‘bankrupt and homeless during a global pandemic’ while living in a £10,000-a-month townhouse today.
After telling the court he was made homeless, Stunt, 40, admitted he was living in a five-storey London house with six bedrooms and a cinema room.
The former husband of Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone, 33, said his father was paying for the house, which was ‘shameful’ and ’embarrassing’.
He was staying in Leeds for the trial and the taxpayer was paying his trial legal bill under the Legal Aid scheme, the court heard.
‘I wish I looked like Brad Pitt and my flat smelt like CK1 but it doesn’t and I don’t,’ Sunt told Leeds Cloth Hall Court.
Stunt is accused of being at the heart of a £266million money-laundering operation and said he was ‘utterly flabbergasted’ when a judge ordered his assets be frozen in 2018. He denies money-laundering.
The original court order was made at a hearing Stunt and his lawyers knew nothing about, the jury heard, and Stunt said ‘the Crown set me up for a fall’.
A legal battle ensued but ended in defeat for the socialite, whose assets were seized by authorities investigating the alleged money-laundering scheme.
Stunt described the ‘restraint order’ controlling his financial affairs and assets as ‘a draconian act that says someone is guilty’.
James Stunt, pictured today arriving at court in Leeds with partner Helena Robinson, is accused of being at the heart of a £266million money-laundering operation
He stayed in a luxury London townhouse during the pandemic but claimed in court he was ‘homeless’ at the time as his father was paying for it
Stunt added that the court order ‘literally turns their life off, a breach of their human rights. That’s my opinion.’
He continued: ‘The Crown let me lose my houses. I was made bankrupt, homeless in a global pandemic and allowed to be mocked and fight for survival.’
The father-of-three also told the court that he wasn’t allowed to see his children, commenting: ‘It was like Herod has tried me as Christ, guilty before I’m innocent.
‘A man who was once well-revered became a self-imposed reclusive pariah.’
As his life spiralled out of control, Stunt admitted he became addicted to cocaine but was unable to recall how much he spent on the drug.
He said he was no longer a ‘coke head’ or gambled but would be an addict and gambler ‘until the day I die’.
‘I don’t regret it, a mistake is a mistake. I have grown. Over the last two years we have all evolved,’ he told the court.
Stunt said the court order meant he couldn’t afford to insure some assets and as a result police seized assets from his home under a judge’s instruction.
Asked about the seizure of his assets, he replied: ‘I am not playing the victim card here, I’m playing the reality card.’
He added: ‘I wish I looked like Brad Pitt and my flat smelt like CK1 but it doesn’t and I don’t.’
Father Geoffrey Stunt (left) paid for James Stunt to live in the £10,000-a-month home after Stunt’s assets were seized, the court heard. Pictured: The pair in Rome in 2011 with heiress Petra Ecclestone
Mr Stunt said a court order which froze his assets ‘was like Herod has tried me as Christ, guilty before I’m innocent’
Nicholas Clarke KC, prosecuting, told Stunt that by 2016, when his offices were raided by police in the money-laundering probe, he had ‘dissipated’ much of his fortune.
Stunt said the position he found himself in meant ‘I was like a leper without a colony’, adding: ‘Everything I was doing was maybe a sin of the heart. It was not an evil miscalculated act.’
Mr Clarke put to Stunt that between his marriage in 2011 and 2016, his personal assets diminished and his bank interest and dividends were reduced to ‘almost nothing’.
The KC said the gold business venture with Bradford based gold dealer Fowler Oldfield was an ‘opportunity to fund your lifestyle independently from Petra Ecclestone’.
But Stunt replied: ‘That’s an outrageous allegation and not the case.’
The socialite has insisted his business to buy in gold and use his own refinery in Sheffield to make Stunt-branded gold bars was a legitimate business.
The prosecution claim it was a ‘cover story’ and millions of pounds of criminal cash was being turned into gold and sent to Dubai.
Stunt and seven defendants deny money laundering.
Stunt and another defendant deny forgery.
The trial continues.