Helio Castroneves still faces tax charges, but may now race outside the country

Just two weeks ago he stood in a Miami court in leg irons and handcuffs, as the judge set bail at a cool $10 million and ordered him not to leave the country. Even so, on October 26th, Helio Castroneves will be racing in the Nikon Indy 300 at Surfer's Paradise on Australia's Gold Coast. The 33 year old two-time Indy 500 champ and winner of 2007's Dancing With the Stars was indicted on October 2nd on multiple charges of tax evasion. But two weeks later, Judge William C. Turnoff has given him permission to compete in the race "down under" later this month.

Castroneves is accused of failing to pay income taxes on $5,550,000 on fees he earned as a racecar driver and for the use of his name in endorsements. Penske Racing paid him a total of $6,000,000 over four years, from 1999 to 2002. And another company, Coimex, paid him $600,000 in 2003-2004, but the racecar driver reported and paid taxes on a combined total of only $1,050,000. With the help of his sister Katiucia, and his attorney Alan Miller - both of whom are also facing charges - Castroneves is charged with diverting the balance into a Panamanian shell company called Seven Promotions and a Dutch company, Fintage Licensing, and various Swiss banks.

A federal prosecutor in the case, Matthew Axelrod, argued that the government was lenient by letting Castroneves travel domestically to race in Georgia, and opposed the defendant's request to travel to Australia for another race. Axelrod's concern was that Castroneves might not return to the United States to face the charges once he left. Castroneves and his sister are citizens of Brazil. Brazil does not extradite its citizens to the United States on most charges, including tax evasion.

Defense attorney David Garvin responded to the government's concerns by saying that Castroneves has much more to lose in possible prizes and endorsements than he would by returning to face his trial. The judge joked that if Castroneves jumps bail, he would find himself "dancing with U.S. Marshals" instead of dancing with the stars.

The charges against Castroneves include six counts of tax evasion, one for each of the six years in question, plus one count of conspiring to defraud the United States government. Each count could bring a statutory maximum of five years in prison. If convicted on all counts, Castroneves and his sister could each spend 35 years in prison, while attorney Miller could spend a maximum of 20 years behind bars. In each case, the actual sentence is expected to be less than the maximum.

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