Any hopes that Helio Castroneves may have had of racing at this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach appears to have been dented by the jury deliberating his tax evasion case in Miami.
The Brazilian, runner-up to Scott Dixon in last year's IndyCar Series, has been told that the #3 Team Penske Dallara is waiting for him if acquitted, but the ongoing ruminations look set to delay any return until at least round three.
Of course, Castroneves has to be found not guilty before he can contemplate getting back on track, and the latest from the court is that a 'partial verdict' had been reached by Thursday. However, after five days of deliberationsthe jury has yet to reach a decision on all seven counts listed against the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner.
A partial verdict was also reached on two of the six counts against Castroneves' sister - and business manager - Katuicia, along with the verdict on all counts against their attorney, Alan Miller. Federal Judge Donald Graham said he would not read the verdicts on two counts of tax evasion until four other similar counts, plus one of conspiracy, had been reached. The 33-year old is charged with conspiring with his sister and lawyer to avoid paying in excess of $2.3m in income tax, and could face as much as six years in prison if found guilty.
Castroneves is accused of failing to declare income tax on money he received from both a $2mn sponsorship deal with Brazilian company Coimex and a $5m licensing deal with Penske dating back to 1999. Central to the case is the ownership of a Panamanian company called Seven Promotions, which prosecutors claim was set up in order to allow Castroneves to evade US income tax laws, even though the driver's father insists the Penske stalwart never owned it. Castroneves also maintains Penske even though he has never actually received any money from his Penske licensing arrangement, which was instead diverted to be invested in a 'deferred compensation deal' with the Dutch firm Fintage Licensing BV.
Team owner Roger Penske has long said that, if Castroneves is cleared of all charges, his seat would be made available to him this weekend in Long Beach, despite stand-in Will Power having taken the #3 to sixth place at the season-opener in St Petersburg.