Helio Castroneves has claimed that he has nothing to fear from the impending hearing into tax evasion charges that could see him miss all or part of the forthcoming IndyCar Series campaign as the result of a prison sentence.
The two-time Indianapolis 500 champion believes that he will be acquitted of all accusations of using offshore accounts to avoid paying tax on his earnings, and even went as far as to suggest that the case should never have reached the courts, where he is scheduled to stand trial from 2 March.
"They are trying to show something that doesn't exist," Castroneves insisted, speaking to Associated Press
after a hearing on pre-trial motions, "Kati and I are innocent."
The Brazilian is accused along with sister Katiucia and Michigan attorney Alan Miller of hiding roughly $5.5m from the Internal Revenue Service, having set up shell corporations and offshore bank accounts to receive income from his racing activities with Penske and other extra-curricular interests such as Brazilian firm Coimex International SA.
The trio are charged with conspiracy and six counts of tax evasion, with each carrying a potential five-year stretch in prison. Castroneves, however, insists that he should never have been caught up in the case, having entrusted his financial affairs to lawyers and experts.
Castroneves' lawyer, Alan Miller, has also pleased his innocence, but prosecutors believe that they have sufficient evidence to convict all three accused. Thursday's pre-trial hearing saw US District Judge Donald Graham reject motions to dismiss some of the counts and allow Miller to stand trial separately. Another hearing is scheduled for tomorrow [Monday] for a motion by Castroneves and his sister to dismiss three of the tax evasion counts because the six-year statute of limitations may have expired.