A WELLNESS blogger who falsely claimed to have cancer while promoting her healthy cookbook has been fined £240,000.
Belle Gibson claimed to have beaten brain cancer using natural remedies and nutrition and carved out a successful blog, app and cookbook.
She had promised to give a share of the profits from her book, The Whole Pantry, to charities but came unstuck when the money allegedly failed to be passed on.
After suspicions were aroused, the Aussie eventually admitted her cancer claims were untrue and she had made it all up.
She has now been penalised in the Federal Court and ordered to pay £240,000 ($410,000) in fines for profiting from her false claims.
The huge fine is nowhere near the maximum penalty she could have faced – £590,000 ( $1.1 million).
Justice Debbie Mortimer also chose not to order Gibson to place a public apology in Australian media.
The judge said the money should be donated to “some or all” of the organisations and people Gibson had promised to give it to.
“In that way, some good might come for the vulnerable people, and the organisation’s supporting them, which were indirectly drawn into this unconscionable sequence of events,” she said.
Gibson was fined for five breaches of Consumer Law including for claims she donated money to charities from app sales and claims a large percentage of company earnings were also being given to charities.
For her involvement in duping the family of nine-year-old Joshua Schwarz, who lost his battle with a terminal brain tumour earlier this year, she was slapped with a (£90,000) $150,000 fine.
“Ms Gibson expressly compares the terrible circumstances of young Joshua to her own, asserting she had the same kind of tumour as he did; a statement which was completely false,” Justice Mortimer said.
“She did this to encourage members of the public to buy her product (The Whole Pantry app), to generate income for herself and her company.
“She consciously chose to use the terminal illness or a little boy in this way.”
A further penalty was given for a Mother’s Day promotion Gibson falsely claimed donations would be made to The 2h Project and the Bumi Sehat Foundation.
And she was hit with a fine for further false claims on charitable donations when launching her app.
Gibson had “deliberately played on the genuine desire of members of the Australian community to help those less fortunate”, Justice Mortimer said at an earlier hearing.
The judge said there was no rational reason for Gibson to believe she had cancer.
She has snubbed the civil proceedings — never once showing her face in court — and has not even been represented by a lawyer.
She once again failed to show today, but Justice Mortimer said the court received an email from her at 10.54pm on September 25, after it notified her of today’s hearing.
The email read: “Thank you for the update. Confirming receipt of your email. Much appreciated. Belle.”
Gibson now has until 4pm on October 5 to apply to the court to go on a payment plan.