A Tel Aviv court sentenced Israeli top model Bar Refaeli on Sunday to nine months of community service in a tax evasion case. Her mother, Zipi Refaeli, was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
The trial against the once-beloved national icon and her mother started in July. They were convicted on offenses of evading taxes on income close to USD 10 million. They would also have to pay a USD 1.5 million fine on top of millions of back amounts due to the state. Zipi Refaeli is expected to begin serving her sentence next week, the court said.
The tax evasion case was built around Bar Refaeli’s worldwide income and her family’s attempt to downgrade her connection with Israel, risking her public image as an official ambassador to her native country. During her active years as a model, Refaeli traveled the world, generating income from different countries and jurisdictions.
During her five-year romantic relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, she used to live in the United States too. The couple split in 2011.
Israeli tax authorities determine residency primarily upon whether the person spent most of the calendar year in the country. Rafaeli claimed that she had not, and therefore, in her view, she was not obliged to declare her income during specific years.
Prosecutors rejected her claim and convicted her of providing false tax information. As per the indictment, the model earned some USD 7.2 million between 2009 – 2012 while claiming to live overseas to avoid paying taxes in her home country.
In previous appeals, the court also ruled that Bar Refaeli’s relationship with Leondardo DiCaprio cannot be considered as a “family unit.” Therefore, she could not claim his US residence as a reason not to pay taxes in Israel.
According to the model’s lawyers, the plea bargain proved she did not intentionally evade tax payments. Bar Refaeli’s mother, who acted as her agent, was charged with failure to report income, avoiding paying taxes, and helping the third party in tax evasion.
The prosecutors proved that she signed leases for her daughter under other family members’ names to hide her actual residency status. Zipi Rafaeli also failed to declare her remuneration as her daughter’s agent, the authorities highlighted.
The former Sports Illustrated cover was assigned to perform community service five days a week, at a center for people with disabilities near Tel Aviv.
What do you think? Does the punishment fit the crime?