Since the airing of the train wreck Sixty Minutes interview, where Belle Gibson could not even state her age, legal issues threaten to provide further worries to the 23 year old cancer fraudster.
Belle Gibson was taken to the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday by Consumer Affairs Victoria which is a part of the Victorian Department of Justice. The Consumer Affairs application to the court was that Belle Gibson be compelled to answer 27 questions about her business and fundraising activities related to The Whole Pantry.
The Whole Pantry was a business founded by Gibson on the back of her social media following and claims that she had treated her cancer using Gerson therapy, nutrition, meditation and natural medicines. Gibson’s business developed a best selling App also called The Whole Pantry and had a book deal with Penguin which resulted in the publication of a cook book which was later withdrawn. It is estimated that the App alone earned Gibson more than 1 million dollars.
The Whole Pantry book was withdrawn from sale after Penguin did not receive answers from Belle Gibson about allegations she did not have cancer. The Whole Pantry App was withdrawn from sale on the Apple Appstore and Belle Gibson’s deal with Apple to feature The Whole Pantry app on the Apple watch was canned soon after. The Whole Pantry Facebook page was deleted as Belle Gibson’s empire went into meltdown. Belle Gibson’s company is called Belle Gibson Pty Ltd.
Gibson has since admitted she has never had cancer.
Gibson was recently interviewed by reporter Tara Brown on the popular Australian current affairs program Sixty Minutes. During the interview Gibson was asked a number of very simple questions to which she could not provide answers. When asked her age Gibson hesitated before saying “I would be 26 ….”. Company documents and Belle Gibson’s own birth certificate show that she was born in 1991 and is currently 23 years of age.
The application by Consumer Affairs Victoria to the Magistrates Court came more than a week after a final deadline given to Gibson to answer questions put to her by the department. The 27 questions were put to Gibson in writing by the department however Gibson failed to answer them, even asking for an extension of time in the last hours before the previous deadline expired.
While Gibson found herself unable to clearly answer questions in her Sixty Minutes interview, she will not be able to dodge and weave on the questions put to her by Consumer Affairs as Magistrate Michael Smith ordered the troubled cancer faker to provide answers to the department on or before the 9th of July.
Gibson was represented in court by barrister Charles Shaw. Mr Shaw put to the court that Gibson be given an opportunity to seek proper legal advice before being required to answer any questions. However Magistrate Smith pointed out the many of the questions were straight forward and in plain English.
Blair Ussher for Consumer Affairs said “Ms Gibson markets wellness products, a cookbook and an app on the basis that she is a cancer survivor”. Mr Ussher went on to say “She was marketing the goods on the basis that a certain percentage of the price would go to charities.”. He told the court that Gibson has been given ample opportunity to answer the questions put to her by the department and that she had already been granted a two week extension on a previously set deadline to answer questions.
If Belle Gibson thought that stalling the department would work in the same way in which she has stalled others seeking answers from her then she would have been sorely disappointed as she was ordered to provide the answers to all 27 questions by the 9th of July.
It is understood the issues being pursued by Consumer Affairs Victoria include matters related to fundraising and consumer laws. Australian Consumer Law makes it an offence for any person to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to the sale of products or services. Stiff penalties can apply to those found to have breached such laws.