Thanks to a five-year tax battle we found out who gifted a SA model R150 million: Lebanon’s prime minister

Business Insider SA
  • A five-year court battle between Sars and SA model Candice van der Merwe revealed she was gifted $16 million by Lebanese PM Saad Hariri, the New York Times reported. 
  • Van der Merwe said she met Hariri on a sponsored trip to the Seychelles when she was 20 and he 43. 
  • Their relationship has since ended, and Van der Merwe sued the government for R1 billion in lost income. 
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Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri gifted South African model Candice van der Merwe more than $16 million after they met in the Seychelles, the New York Times reported this week based on court documents.

Van der Merwe has been involved in a drawn-out legal battle with the South African Revenue Service (Sars) over a “donation” of $15.3 million (roughly R150 million at the time) she received from Hariri in 2013. 

At the time, Van der Merwe didn’t disclose Hariri’s identity, and mentioned her benefactor’s assistant Mahomed Rawas was responsible for the donation, the Mail & Guardian reported. 

She settled her court case with Sars in 2016 when she agreed to pay R44 million tax – but in 2018 sued the national treasury for R1 billion for damage to her reputation, City Press reported.

It was in those court papers that she revealed that Hariri gave her the money.

Van der Merwe said she met Hariri at The Plantation club and resort in the Seychelles in 2012, when she was 20 and Hariri 43. 

Hariri, the father of three, was married at the time. He became prime minister of Lebanon in 2016. 

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 18: French President Emma
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, his wife Lara and their son Hussam with French President Emmanuel Macron (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Van der Merwe claimed the trip was fully sponsored and she was asked to come to “lend a sense of glamour and exclusivity,” the Mail & Guardian reported. 

When models arrived at the resort, their passports were taken away and they are not allowed to take any photos or tell stories of what happens there, Van der Merwe said. 

City Press reported that the first two times she went to the Seychelles, she flew economy class, but thereafter flew business or first class.

In an email to Hariri - seen by the New York Times -  Van der Merwe wrote “Love you my Saad” with her banking details, adding that she intends to buy property with the money. 

The $15.3 million donation arrived in her account from a Lebanese bank shortly after. 

Sars believed the donation was money belonging to her father, businessman Gary van der Merwe, who had fought repeated court battles with the tax authorities, the New York Times reported

In 2018 court papers, Van der Merwe blamed Sars for ending her relationship with Hariri, which she said she could’ve still derived financial benefit from. 

Hariri has faced increasing pressure in Lebanon where a looming financial crisis has set off anti-government protests while his personal net worth has fallen by nearly $500 million since 2013 to $1.5 billion, according to Forbes.

His construction company Saudi Oger, founded by his father Rafic Hariri, closed down in 2017. The company was the original controlling shareholder in Cell C.

Rafic Hariri, who also served as Lebanese prime minister between 2000 and 2004, was assassinated by a suicide truck bomb in Beirut in 2005.

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