MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australian author and blogger Belle Gibson faces a possible government lawsuit after admitting that she lied about beating a normally deadly brain tumor through healthy eating and natural therapies, officials said on Friday.
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 yearlong investigation, Consumer Affairs Victoria, a state government watchdog, said in a statement 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 220,000 Australian dollars (160,000) for an individual and AU$1.1 million for companies.
No criminal charges have been laid against Gibson. Consumer Affairs Victoria examined allegations that Gibson failed to fulfill a promise to donate AU$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 an AU$30,000 fine for failing to substantiate claims that Gibson had been diagnosed with cancer at age 20 and that part of the book sales would go to charity.
Gibson could not be immediately contacted for comment.