He recently bragged of owning 200 cars and boasted that losing £5million in a casino meant nothing to him.
But playboy James Stunt is being forced to live considerably more frugally these days – on the orders of a judge.
The gold bullion magnate ex-husband of Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone, with whom he has three children, has had his assets frozen under ‘proceeds of crime’ rules, the Daily Mail can reveal. At a court hearing, secret until now, a judge also slapped a £1,000-a-week spending limit on Stunt, 37, who is described as ‘the Alleged Offender’.
Petra Ecclestone pictured with James Stunt, who recently bragged of owning 200 cars and boasted that losing £5million in a casino meant nothing to him
For most mortals, this would be high-rolling enough, but for the brash, caviar-loving supercar fan, it must severely cramp his style.
The teetotal tycoon could not even drown his sorrows if he wanted to – as he is effectively barred from reaching into his wine cabinet, designed by Earl of Snowdon David Linley – and taking a restorative swig from his treasure trove of Chateau Petrus, which can cost £10,000 a bottle.
To do so would reduce the value of his cellar, and Stunt is prohibited from doing this. The Mail has obtained a copy of a ‘restraint order prohibiting disposal of assets’ served on him by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The order threatens him with a fine or jail if he tries to sell his multi-million-pound homes or cherished fleet of supercars.
Over 17 pages, the restraint order freezes no fewer than 14 bank accounts, and bans the sale of his Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, and seven property deeds. The order was issued by Judge Sarah Munro QC, sitting at the Old Bailey, on August 29. The hearing was private, and was not reported at the time. When the Mail tried to report on the existence of the order last December, Stunt’s lawyers obtained a court order that banned publication.
Stunning views: The block of flats overlooking the Thames in Chelsea Harbour
Luxury home: The cottage in Belgravia that was on the market in 2016 for £11.8m
But Stunt’s bid to gag the Press has backfired, after the Mail challenged the gagging order in court yesterday. It was overturned, meaning the Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings against the multi-millionaire can be revealed for the first time. The Act was introduced in 2002 to allow money or assets to be seized by the State if they were obtained through unlawful conduct. In Stunt’s case, he has not been charged with any offence, and it is not clear why the order has been made. His assets have not been seized, but their use has been restricted and he must not dispose of, deal with or diminish the value of them.
It is understood that, since August, the restraint order has been subject to minor revisions on three occasions, to take account of Stunt’s business interests.
In the original order, Judge Munro QC slapped a £1,000-a-week limit on him, saying: ‘This order does not prohibit the Alleged Offender from spending up to £1,000 a week towards his ordinary living expenses.’
Listed by the court: One of two Rolls-Royce Phantoms. Stunt recently bragged of owning 200 cars and boasted that losing £5million in a casino meant nothing to him.
Stunt is being forced to live considerably more frugally these days – on the orders of a judge (pictured: His favourite supercar, the Lamborghini Aventador)
It is a far cry from his days of splashing the cash. His costly and acrimonious divorce from Miss Ecclestone in 2017 did not dent his penchant for shopping trips to Harrods in a cavalcade of supercars. In March last year, he declared to Tatler magazine that he is ‘as rich as ever’.
He said he had once had a £5million credit line at ‘every casino’ in London, Monaco, Las Vegas and Macao but had recently cut his wagers to ‘just’ £20,000 a night, explaining: ‘Me fooling around with £20,000, I’m not trying to sound as if I don’t know the value of money, but it’s a huge improvement on losing £5million a night. You have to bet enough to hurt you, but I definitely had a gambling problem. I was losing millions every time.’
Interviewed at home by the high-society magazine, while wearing a £60,000 Audemars Piguet gold wristwatch, he showed off some of his paintings including a Van Gogh, a Constable, a Picasso and several Van Dycks.
These are likely to be among the list of artworks that Stunt has been ordered to draw up by the court. The judge demanded he itemise all of his ‘paintings, furniture, watches, jewellery and objets d’art’, along with their estimated value, photographs and locations where they are held.
Audemars Piguet gold watch: Stunt has one worth £60,000 in his collection
The gold bullion magnate is the ex-husband of Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone, with whom he has three children (pictured: His Bentley Mulsanne)
Rolls-Royce Phantom: The other in Stunt’s collection. Stunt has also spent millions on artworks
Stunt has spent millions on artworks. His bodyguards have been spotted carrying bubble-wrapped masterpieces from Sotheby’s and Christie’s to Rolls-Royces parked on yellow lines outside.
He has lent paintings by Monet, Dali, Picasso and Constable to galleries around the world. Even Prince Charles accepted paintings on loan for the restoration of his Scottish stately home Dumfries House, and Stunt has several royal letters of gratitude on display at his Mayfair office.
Two months ago, in line with good journalistic practice, the Mail gave Stunt a chance to comment before publication. A security guard answering the door of his stucco-fronted Belgravia cottage said he was unavailable, but accepted a letter to him offering an opportunity to comment. Instead of doing so, Stunt went straight to a judge.
Later that day, Old Bailey Judge Mark Dennis QC granted an order to ‘prohibit publication of all information’ relating to the assets freezing order. Yesterday, Judge Dennis threw out the gagging order, and suggested Stunt had been trying to protect his ‘personal, reputational or personal business interests’, none of which was relevant to the Proceeds of Crime proceedings. The CPS has declined to comment.
Used by his security team: One of two Range Rovers. He told Tattler he liked to travel in ‘an armada of cars’ on shopping trips round London
Bentley Flying Spur: Stunt claims to own 200 cars
Stunt has repeatedly stoked controversy. During his £5billion divorce, he was claimed to have rubbed cocaine on his gums during a court hearing. On the same day in June 2017, it is also claimed he barged into his father-in-law, the ex-Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, and made a gun gesture towards him in court. He later made an obscene gesture at photographers as he left the hearing. Stunt has ‘categorically denied’ all these allegations, calling them ‘completely ridiculous’.
Around that time, Stunt was photographed sitting in the back of a Rolls-Royce with Terry Adams, the ‘Godfather’ of Britain’s most notorious crime family which has been linked to 25 murders, money laundering, racketeering and extortion.
Adams is also Stunt’s godfather. Stunt has spoken of his pride at being his godson. There is no suggestion he is involved in any of Adams’s affairs.
Wine collection: A bottle of Chateau Petrus
The assets which have been frozen by the court offer a fascinating glimpse into Stunt’s wealth. Among other things, the Proceeds of Crime order lists his cars and their personalised number plates – all variations on his surname.
Stunt is banned from selling the following cars: Bentley Flying Spur, registration S4UNT Range Rover S2UNT Lamborghini Countach 157UNT Rolls-Royce Phantom 57UNT, Lamborghini Aventador S7UNT, Range Rover S1UNT, Rolls-Royce Phantom S3UNT, Lamborghini Aventador S1VNT, Bentley Mulsanne S6UNT.
He has bragged that he owns more than 200 high-performance cars, mainly stored in hangars in California and the UK.
He told Tattler he liked to travel in ‘an armada of cars’ on shopping trips round London, typically in a Lamborghini sandwiched by two Rolls-Royces and two Range Rovers as, he claims, it would embarrass him to have his 25-strong security team trail him in Ford Fiestas.
Stunt once boasted to Bernie Ecclestone that his £600,000 Rolls-Royce Mansory Conquistador was the only one in the world.
The court order imposes a freeze on two entire floors of a luxury apartment block next to the Thames. Stunt paid £3.3million for the first flat, in 2012, and a further £3.4million for the apartment directly beneath it, in 2015.
Deeds for the two properties, publicly available via the Land Registry, have been recently amended to show that a court order prevents any sale without the permission of ‘the CPS Proceeds of Crime Central Pre-Enforcement Unit’. They also show that a bankruptcy notice was filed at the High Court in October this year.
Stunt’s stucco-fronted four-storey Belgravia cottage has four double-bedroom suites, wine cellar, roof terrace, cinema, gym and steam room. Bought via one of his companies for £2.7million in 2011 – he boasted he paid cash – it was put back on the market in 2016 for £11.8million but did not sell.
Two small plots in Stunt’s name close to Dartmouth Castle in Devon are identified in the order. Bizarrely, the plots in a patch of woodland are tiny – each less than eight inches by eight inches.
The order freezes no fewer than 14 bank accounts in the names of James Stunt or Stunt & Co Ltd. They comprise nine accounts at Barclays, four at Lloyds and one at a Mayfair wealth management firm.
Stunt is banned from selling his Corney & Barrow fine wine collection. The 230-year-old London-based firm is one of the oldest independent wine merchants in the UK. It is currently selling a case of 12 bottles of Petrus 1982 for £51,000.
The court order also demanded that Stunt draw up a list of all his ‘paintings, furniture, watches, jewellery and objets d’art’ and itemise their estimated value and locations where they are held.