Ex-TV newsreader accused of tax evasion
A former television newsreader has denied she deliberately withheld more than $1.8 million in GST payments during a lucrative career of property development in Melbourne.
Simone Semmens, who is on bail, faced a County Court of Victoria trial on Monday after pleading not guilty to 10 charges of dishonestly withholding tax over a 10-year period.
In his opening address to the jury, prosecutor Robert Barry said Semmens had purchased mansions and addresses in prestige areas, subdividing and developing new properties on the land.
He said Semmens and her ex-husband William Cowan formed a company – Semco Pty Ltd – that bought, subdivided, renovated and sold properties.
Mr Barry said the case involved a property at Portsea that Semmens bought for $7.5 million in 2002, a $7.8-million mansion at Caulfield North she purchased in 2007, and a property at Toorak she bought in 2001 for over a million dollars.
Those properties were subdivided and sold, but the Crown alleges Semmens knowingly didn’t pay GST on them, failing to submit as much as $329,000 in tax per sale, “and didn’t pay it, dishonestly”.
Mr Barry also said the former Seven Network newsreader was aware of her tax obligations and this was evidenced by communications she had with her bank and her surveyor.
“She dishonestly failed to remit the money back to the Commonwealth in the way that was required,” he said.
In 2017, the homes of Semmens and her former partner were searched, with police seizing documents from both locations.
Mr Barry said those documents would be shown to the jury in support of the crown case.
However, Semmens’ lawyer Ashlee Cannon said it was “hotly contested” that her client was necessarily required to pay GST on each of the properties that were sold.
She added it was disputed that Semmens acted dishonestly.
Semmens reportedly has a background as a beauty queen, including being crowned Miss Victoria Grocery Industry in the 1980s.
Her trial is due to continue on Tuesday.