Israeli model Bar Refaeli arrested for tax evasion

Supermodel Bar Refaeli is under investigation in her native Israel over allegations that she evaded paying local tax on earnings from her international career.
Supermodel Bar Refaeli is under investigation in her native Israel over allegations that she evaded paying local tax on earnings from her international career. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

JERUSALEM • Israel's most famous model Bar Refaeli was arrested and questioned for allegedly evading taxes on millions of dollars of income from abroad by lying about her residency, the Israeli authorities said on Thursday.

The 30-year-old is also suspected of receiving benefits of "over a million shekels" (about S$364,000) in the form of free accommodation in luxury apartments and cars she did not report, Israel's Tax Authority said in a statement.

Her mother Zipora was also arrested.

Israeli citizens who are not residents are exempted from reporting to the tax authorities on income from outside the country.

The Tax Authority alleged Refaeli and her mother created the false appearance of the model residing outside of Israel to avoid paying full taxes. It said she lived in luxury apartments registered under her mother and brother's names.

She was also given a free Range Rover and Lexus for her use in return for being photographed in the cars, without the vehicles being registered under her name.

She and her mother are also suspected of receiving "celebrity discounts" which should have been reported as income, such as discounts on the interior design of Refaeli's apartment and when Zipora bought an apartment.

An undercover investigation culminated in a raid on Refaeli and her mother's home on Wednesday. On Thursday, a Tel Aviv court ordered their arrest and release on bail.

Both were forced to deposit their passports and are not allowed to leave Israel without permission for 180 days.

There was no immediate comment from Refaeli's lawyers.

This is not the first time the model, who in the past dated actor Leonardo DiCaprio, allegedly found loopholes in Israeli law to her benefit.

She stirred controversy when she evaded her two years of mandatory military service by marrying a friend of her father's, only to divorce him a short time later. In September, she married Israeli businessman Adi Ezra.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'Israeli model arrested for tax evasion'. Print Edition | Subscribe