A Swedish former video games executive, who triggered an international criminal probe after destroying a $1 million Ferrari in Malibu, went on trial on Thursday on charges of car theft, embezzlement and drunken driving.
Bo Stefan Eriksson, 44, a former executive with the now bankrupt video game company Gizmondo Europe, pleaded not guilty to the charges stemming from the dramatic 160 mph (257.5 kph) crash of the rare red Enzo Ferrari in February along the winding Pacific Coast Highway.
The smash into a power pole, which sliced the car in half but caused no injuries, ended Eriksson’s life of big spending, million dollar homes, fast cars and burned-out ventures in both Europe and the United States.
A month before wrecking the Ferrari, Gizmondo Europe declared bankruptcy with more than $200 million in debt.
In an article this month, Wired Magazine described the meltdown of Gizmondo — whose handheld gaming device was much hyped but swiftly derided by players — as “one of the biggest debacles in the history of the video game industry.”
Eriksson has prior convictions in Sweden for assault, forgery and fraud and served prison time there before joining Gizmondo in London. The Swedish press dubbed the gang he headed there in the early 1990s as the Uppsala Mafia.
California prosecutors allege that the crashed Ferrari along with another Enzo Ferrari and a Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR — worth a total of nearly $4 million — were reported stolen by British banks because payments on a lease had ceased in late 2005.
They also say Eriksson imported the cars to the United States in violation of those lease agreement. Three witnesses from Britain are flying to Los Angeles to testify at the jury trial, which is expected to last about two weeks.
Eriksson initially told police the car was being driven by a mystery man called Dietrich, but he later admitted making up the story.
Eriksson, assisted by a Swedish interpreter, on Monday turned down a plea agreement that would have sent him to a California prison for two years and four months for pleading no contest — the equivalent of guilty — to four of the car theft and embezzlement charges.
“I cannot agree that I stole the car because I didn’t,” Eriksson told the judge.
Eriksson has been held in custody in lieu of $3 million bail since his arrest in April. He also faces a charge of illegal weapons possession and could face 11 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
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