Simone Semmens outside Melbourne Magistrates Court. Photo: Penny Stephens
A former Victorian beauty queen and TV presenter who was pulled from a US-bound plane in Melbourne a week ago and arrested and charged with multi-million dollar tax offences is now fighting to fly again.
Following a tax office operation codenamed Poseidon, Simone Semmens faces a maximum sentence of five years jail if convicted on four charges issued after the collapse of her lucrative property development company.
It is alleged Ms Semmens, 54, acted dishonestly to cause a shortfall in GST and income tax totalling almost $4 million between 2005 and 2011.
Simone Semmens, then 23, was Miss Victorian Grocery Industry, in 1985.
Photo: Fairfax Photographic
Melbourne Magistrates Court heard that Ms Semmens formed a company with her former husband William Cowan that bought, subdivided, renovated and sold three major projects in Toorak, Portsea and Caulfield North.
In his prosecution summary, Robert Barry said she made a total profit of more than $4.7 million from the projects before the company, Semco Developments Pty Ltd, was liquidated in 2010.
Mr Barry claimed that when asked to provide documents to the tax office, Ms Semmens made false representations which led to default assessments.
After an earlier filing hearing, Ms Semmens on Thursday applied to vary her bail conditions to allow her to return to the US, which Mr Barry did not oppose provided she provide a $200,000 surety.
Dermot Connors, for Ms Semmens, told magistrate Julian Ayres what the authorities sought was not unreasonable, but that his client could not raise “anything more than a couple of thousand” dollars.
The court heard that after her Toorak house was searched by police and tax investigators in March, 2013, Ms Semmens travelled three times to the US and returned to Australia but was arrested last Sunday boarding a flight to California.
In evidence, Ms Semmens, who gave her occupation as “home maker and stay at home mother”, said she was “somewhat relieved” she had been charged after the matter had “hung over my head like a sword of Damocles” for more than two years.
Ms Semmens said there had “clearly been a great deal of misunderstanding” and she would now “take this opportunity to clear my name, restore my reputation and get on with the rest of my life”.
The US citizen regarded as “absolutely outrageous” the suggestion she was a “flight risk” who would abscond when she had a daughter, 21, in Melbourne and needed to be with her son, 18, in California during his final school year.
Questioned by Mr Barry, she said it was “simply not my style not to show up for something like this” and that “I don’t think I’ve got anything to run from”.
In his decision, Mr Ayres said that given her new husband was on a $US200,000 salary and they lived in a $1.5 million house which generally indicated she had access to funds, the imposition of a surety was not inordinate or unreasonable.
He accepted she had no prior convictions, there was no allegation of her using false identities and she had ties to Melbourne and set $50,000 as the surety Ms Semmens would have to provide.
When the case resumed on Friday, Mr Connors said that someone his client hoped would provide the surety had “failed to materialise” and asked the matter be adjourned until next week.
Mr Ayres consented, and varied her bail to live at an address in Toorak after earlier being bailed to her sister’s house in Box Hill.