Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli could be dropped as one of the hosts of this year’s Eurovision in Tel Aviv, due to a looming indictment against her for tax offenses involving tens of millions of shekels, according to a report Monday.
Refaeli has been reportedly tapped by public broadcaster Kan to host the May extravaganza alongside longtime television hosts Erez Tal and Assi Azar, and Kan presenter Lucy Ayoub.
But the broadcaster — which is in charge of organizing the international song contest — is now reconsidering Refaeli’s nomination, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported.
Organizers are worried Refali may be too busy with her legal case to devote enough time to rehearsals for the show, as well as concerned about ethical and public image issues that may come with having a host under indictment.
“We will have to reconsider her nomination,” a source from the Kan state broadcaster, which is organizing the competition, was quoted as saying in the Yedioth report. “Professionally, there is no question. She had an excellent audition. But the tax affair poses a problem for us.”
The broadcaster said only that the host selection process was ongoing.
Israel won the right to host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest by winning the 2018 edition, with singer Netta Barzilai’s “Toy.”
State prosecutors last week notified Refaeli, as well as her parents Tzipi and Rafi, that they are planning to press criminal charges against them — pending a hearing — on suspicion of money-laundering and tax-dodging offenses.
Rafaeli’s lawyer has categorically denied any wrongdoing on her client’s part, and said the supermodel’s defense team was optimistic that a judge would throw out the case.
Authorities suspect that Refaeli lied in saying she lived mostly abroad, and failed to report the pricey gifts and celebrity discounts that she received to Israel’s tax authorities.
In addition, she allegedly set up companies abroad and opened foreign accounts around the world, where she stored her earnings to conceal them from Israeli tax authorities. At the same time, she gave US tax authorities documents saying she is non-resident of the US and lives in Israel.
The model, whose many campaigns for various companies have made her one of Israel’s most recognizable faces on the world stage, has also been a mainstay of celebrity websites and gossip rags in Israel and the US.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.