An Israeli court sentenced top model Bar Refaeli on Sunday 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 entered the Tel Aviv courthouse accompanied by her father, Raffi; her mother, Zipi; and flanked by lawyers. The 35-year-old Refaeli and her mother were convicted in July of evading paying taxes on income nearing $10 million. According to a plea bargain accepted by the court, the AP reports, the two were ordered to pay a $1.5 million fine on top of millions of back taxes owed to the state. Zipi Refaeli, who acted as her daughter's agent, is 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 play down her ties to Israel, damaged her image as an informal ambassador for the country. Still, she remains a popular TV personality whose image is ubiquitous on highway billboards throughout the country. The case centers around Refaeli’s residence during years when she traveled 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. 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.
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