Australia: Tax-dodging socialite goes from Toorak mansion to Deer Park prison - - PressFrom - Australia
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Australia Tax-dodging socialite goes from Toorak mansion to Deer Park prison

12:40  21 november  2019
12:40  21 november  2019 Source:   theage.com.au

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Former socialite Simone Semmens has lived in some of Melbourne's most expensive trophy homes, but will spend at least the next nine months in the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre after being sentenced in the County Court for evading $1.73 million in tax.

Semmens, a former Channel 7 newsreader turned property developer, was handed a 34-month sentence on Thursday after a County Court jury found in June that she was guilty on all 10 charges of dishonestly causing loss to the Commonwealth.

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a woman wearing a suit and tie: Simone Semmens outside the Melbourne Magistrates' Court in 2015 © Penny Stephens Simone Semmens outside the Melbourne Magistrates' Court in 2015 County Court Judge Scott Johns said Semmens, 58, had repeatedly ignored advice from accountants and bank staff that GST was owed on the transfer of 10 properties between 2005 and 2011.

"You have your dishonesty but also your stubbornness and intransigence to blame," Judge Johns said.

a woman standing in front of a door: Simone Semmens shows off her home in Kooyong Road back in 2000. © Gerry Angelos Simone Semmens shows off her home in Kooyong Road back in 2000. "There were many stages over the past 15 plus years where you could have taken advice, acted reasonably, acted honestly, listened and negotiated your way through the issue of liability for taxation. The evidence in the trial revealed you to be stubborn and steadfast in your insistence that you did know owe GST or any other form of tax."

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Judge Johns said Semmens fall from grace had been "dramatic".

"You've scaled heights you probably only dreamed of as a 16 or 17 year old trying to make your way in the world. No doubt the way down has not been easy. It's in no small part to your resilience and resourcefulness that I consider your prospects for rehabilitation to be excellent."

a person posing for the camera: Simone Semmens was 23 when she was crowned Miss Victorian Grocery Industry for 1985. © Fairfax Photographic Simone Semmens was 23 when she was crowned Miss Victorian Grocery Industry for 1985.

With time already served and a non-parole period of 14 months, Semmens will be released in August 2020 on a $100 good behaviour bond.

The former beauty queen bought a Toorak home for $1.1 million, purchased the Portsea mansion Noorah for $7.5 million and paid $7.8 million for the historic Rosecraddock estate in Caulfield North.

That house had seen the brutal murder of former owner and eccentric millionaire Peter Shellard by his former girlfriend and two drug-addled accomplices.

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Prison green is the new black for former TV presenter Simone Semmens who has been convicted of evading Dark green is the new black for former Melbourne socialite Simone Semmens, who The Tax Office and Federal Police raided Semmens' Toorak home in 2013 and she was arrested while

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She had Rosecraddock subdivided into seven properties, demolished the Toorak residence and built two apartments, and had two additional homes built on the Portsea cliff-top.

All 10 properties were sold for a combined profit of more than $4 million, but no GST was paid by Semmens, who also reneged on payments to tradesmen, suppliers, solicitors and lenders.

Australian Tax Office assistant commissioner Ian Read said the sentence handed to Semmens sent a clear message to those who try to cheat the system and that tax evasion is not a victimless crime.

a woman walking in the rain holding an umbrella: Semmens, seen outside court in June,  seemed dismissive of the legal process. © AAP Semmens, seen outside court in June, seemed dismissive of the legal process.

“This wasn’t a one-off property sale; this is a case of someone deliberately carrying on anenterprise without meeting their tax obligations.

“There are many TV shows that make flipping properties look like a fun and lucrative thing todo. People also need to be aware of their tax obligations.”

Semmens' criminal conduct was first uncovered in 2011 during an ATO audit. Her company Semco Developments Pty Ltd had already collapsed the year before with massive debts and amid a series of law suits.

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The Tax Office and Federal Police raided Semmens' Toorak home in 2013 and she was arrested while trying to board a flight to the US in 2015.

Always immaculately dressed, Semmens appeared dismissive, almost contemptuous, that she was required to return to Australia to stand trial.

During a bail application in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in 2015, she claimed the charges had hung over her head "like a sword of Damocles," and insisted there had "clearly been a great deal of misunderstanding."

a person smiling for the camera: Simone Semmens was a Channel 7 newsreader. © Ian Maybanks Simone Semmens was a Channel 7 newsreader.

She vowed to "take this opportunity to clear my name, restore my reputation and get on with the rest of my life".

But in a further insult to taxpayers, Semmens's legal team received funding from Victoria Legal Aid, despite her lavish lifestyle in the US which she has called home since 2014.

Semmens has lived in several luxury residences, including a $US2.5 million mansion in the exclusive enclave of Lafayette, outside of San Francisco.

Using her married name Simone Halstead, she worked for several years as a real estate agent in Santa Barbara, about 150 kilometres north of Los Angeles. Her online profile spruiks her integrity.

"Simone Halstead is a savvy, Santa Barbara real-estate professional. With years of experience on both the selling and buying sides of many, multi-million dollar transactions she works with dedication and integrity,'' according to her profile with US firm Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

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