Model Bar Refaeli gets 9 months community service for tax evasion; mom jailed
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Model Bar Refaeli gets 9 months community service for tax evasion; mom jailed

Court gives supermodel’s mother 16 months in prison in plea bargain; pair fined NIS 2.5 million apiece on top of paying millions in back taxes

Israeli top model Bar Refaeli, right, and her mother, Tzipi Rafaieli wear face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic as they leave a courtroom in Tel Aviv, September 13, 2020 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, Pool)
Israeli top model Bar Refaeli, right, and her mother, Tzipi Rafaieli wear face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic as they leave a courtroom in Tel Aviv, September 13, 2020 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, Pool)

An Israeli court sentenced top model Bar Refaeli on Monday to nine months of community service and sentenced her mother to 16 months in prison, ending a prolonged tax evasion case that had sullied the image of a once beloved national icon.

Refaeli was accompanied by her father, Raffi, and her mother, Tzipi, and flanked by lawyers. The 35-year-old Refaeli and her mother were convicted in July to offenses of evading paying taxes on income nearing $10 million.

According to a a plea bargain accepted by the court, the two were also each ordered to pay a NIS 2.5 million ($1.5 million) fine on top of millions of back taxes owed to the state. Tzipi Refaeli is set to begin serving her prison sentence next week.

The prolonged case, built around the celebrity model’s worldwide income and the family’s attempts to downplay her ties to Israel, damaged her well-crafted public image as an informal ambassador for the country.

Still, she remains a popular TV personality and pitch-woman whose image is ubiquitous on highway billboards throughout the country. Last year, she hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

The case centers around Refaeli’s residence during years when she traveled around the world in high-profile modeling campaigns, graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and had a lengthy romantic relationship with Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Authorities said that Refaeli lied in saying she lived mostly abroad, and failed to report the income, pricey gifts, and celebrity discounts she received during that time to Israeli tax authorities.

Israeli tax law determines residency primarily upon whether the person spent most of the calendar year in the country. Refaeli claimed that she hadn’t and therefore did not have to declare her income during certain years.

Prosecutors rejected her claim and charged her with providing incorrect tax information. Refaeli’s indictment said she earned some $7.2 million between the years 2009-2012 while claiming to reside overseas to avoid paying Israeli taxes on her income.

Israeli model Bar Refaeli and US actor Leonardo DiCaprio at the ceremony for the ‘Cinema for Peace Gala 2010’ during the International Film Festival Berlinale in Berlin, Germany, February 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

In previous appeals, an Israeli court ruled that Refaeli’s relationship with DiCaprio did not qualify as a “family unit,” and therefore she could not claim his US residence to avoid paying the full taxes she owed.

Refaeli’s lawyers said the plea bargain proved she had not intentionally evaded paying taxes. Refaeli’s mother, who also acted as her agent, was charged with failure to report income, avoiding paying taxes and aiding someone else in evading tax payments. The indictment said she signed leases for her daughter under the names of other family members to blur Refaeli’s actual residency status and refrained from declaring her own income as her daughter’s agent.

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