Australian author and blogger, Belle Gibson, faces a possible government lawsuit, after admitting that she lied about using healthy eating and natural therapies to beat a brain tumour, officials said.
The 24-year-old social media entrepreneur and author of The Whole Pantry, a cookbook that detailed her purportedly life-saving diet, admitted a year ago that she had never been diagnosed with cancer.
After a year-long investigation, Consumer Affairs Victoria, a state government watchdog, said that it had applied to the Australian Federal Court to sue Gibson and her company, Inkerman Road Nominees, which is now in liquidation, for false and misleading conduct.
The court will hear the application on May 24. Maximum penalties are $220,00 for an individual and $1.1m for companies.
No criminal charges have been laid against Gibson. Consumer Affairs Victoria examined allegations that Gibson failed to fulfill a promise to donate $300,000 from sales of her wellness app, ‘The Whole Pantry’, to charity.
Consumer affairs minister, Jane Garrett, said a civil suit was the most appropriate way to pursue justice.
“The state will not be letting this go,” she told reporters.
Penguin Australia, publisher of The Whole Pantry, agreed to pay a AU$30,000 fine for failing to substantiate claims that Gibson had been diagnosed with cancer at age 20, and also agreed that part of the book sales would go to charity.
Gibson could not be immediately contacted for comment.
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