Israeli top model Bar Refaeli sentenced in tax evasion case
TEL AVIV – Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli was sentenced on Sunday to nine months’ community service and her mother was ordered to be jailed for 16 months for tax evasion on earnings from her international career.
The former Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model, now a popular TV personality in Israel, had pleaded guilty to tax offences under a plea bargain that also included her mother and agent, Tzipi Refaeli.
Israel tax authorities accused the two of evading paying taxes on income of about US$7.2 million (S$9.8m).
Security for their court appearance on Sunday was tight, with barricades in the lobby marking a path to an elevator that took the pair to the courtroom.
“We love you Bar,” one woman shouted as both walked past cameras and reporters, without making any comment.
Defence attorneys had argued that Refaeli, a papparazzi favourite during a romantic relationship with Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, did not have to declare to Israeli tax authorities worldwide income between 2009 and 2012.
Now a 35-year-old mother of three and married to an Israeli businessman, she had contended she was living overseas at the time and exempt from any Israeli tax bills.
But prosecutors said she had been living in luxury homes in Israel leased by her mother and other relatives to hide her residency status.
A Courts Administration statement said Refaeli was assigned provisionally to perform community service, five days a week, at a centre near Tel Aviv for people with physical disabilities.
Her 65-year-old mother was due to begin her jail term on Sept 21.
They were fined 2.5 million shekels (S$987,000) each, on top of taxes owed. The Haaretz newspaper said they would likely end up paying authorities about 25 million shekels, including interest charges.
The ruling ends a long-running case in which Refaeli was first arrested and questioned in December 2015.
She also stirred controversy when she evaded her two years of mandatory Israeli military service by marrying a friend of her father’s, only to divorce him a short while later. - REUTERS