After a federal judge initially barred Helio Castroneves from leaving the country as part of the race car driver’s bail conditions, it seems he has changed his mind. Despite arguments by the prosecutors that Castroneves had both motive and assets to flee the country, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Turnoff said that he believed “the dumbest thing Mr. Castroneves could do” would be to jump his bail while he awaited trial on tax evasion and conspiracy charges.

Judge Turnoff remarked to Castroneves, “You have much to lose by not complying with conditions of release.” Castroneves reportedly nodded vigorously in agreement. The judge also took a jab at Castroneves’ appearance on Dancing With the Stars, adding that he would “tango with the U.S. marshals” if he was a no show in court.

While Castroneves is a native of Brazil, he left the country in 1996. His attorney, David Garvin, argued that there was no chance that Castroneves would flee, given that the majority of his racing contracts, appearances and promotional opportunities was tied to the United States. Castroneves is currently ranked second on the Indy circuit, just a few points behind New Zealand’s Scott Dixon.

Garvin also indicated that Castroneves would Garvin pay the Internal Revenue Service about $5 million in federal taxes after his “deferred royalty contract” expires at the end of the year; prosecutors allege that Castroneves has always had access to that account.

Prosecutors also argued that Castroneves has millions of additional dollars around the world in addition to the “deferred royalty” account, including assets in Brazil. Those assets, as well as a potential jail sentence, were sufficient reasons for Castroneves to be considered a flight risk, according to the prosecution. The judge did not buy that argument. He has allowed prosecutors the right to appeal the bail modifications but so far, no appeal is planned.

In response to the allegations, Castroneves’ racing team posted the following message on his email in Portugese:

Helio gostaria de agradecer a todos que têm ligado e escrito com seu apoio. Esse carinho e apoio significa muito pra ele.

Desde os seus 12 anos de idade ele é um piloto de corridas, e vai enfrentar esse caso como se fosse mais uma difícil corrida.

Helio não entende das leis de impostos deos EUA, por isso tem ao seu lado advogados e contadores experientes.

Ele tem fé que vencerá esse caso, pois sabe que não é culpado.

Obrigado,
Castroneves Racing RP

And in English:

Helio wants to thank everyone for their support. The phone calls and emails mean a lot to him.

Since he was 12 years old he has been a race car driver and he will face this case as a difficult race.

Helio doesn’t know much about the tax laws in the United States. For that reason, he has experienced lawyers and accountants at his side.

He has faith that he will win this case, since he knows he is not guilty.

Thank you,
Castroneves Racing PR

There are many comments at Castroneves’ site, expressing dismay over the arrest and his subsequent treatment at trial (specifically referencing the leg shackles). Do you think he was treated fairly? Do you think he’ll flee? Was his bail fair?

If it were up to my Mom, he’d be released on the strength of his samba alone…

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Kelly Phillips Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer, and podcaster.

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