Just how far Belle Gibson has gone to become part of Melbourne’s Ethiopian community has been revealed in new photos, as the consumer watchdog issues a stark warning about the fraudster.
The disgraced wellness blogger has claimed she has been adopted by the ‘Oromo’ ethnic group in Melbourne – wearing a headscarf, claiming she is blessed by Allah and even saying ‘my name is Sobantu’ in the native Afaan Oromo language.
Ethiopian community sources told Daily Mail Australia that Gibson, 28, has attended BBQs, weddings, community meetings to ingratiate herself with the Oromo ethnic group – regularly showing her face in the final months of 2019.
Now her bizarre guise has been exposed, suspicions have been raised about remarks the fraudster made about ‘raising large amounts of money’ for the community.
Cancer fraudster Belle Gibson – who made up that she had brain cancer and treated it with healthy eating – poses during an Oromo community event
The fresh pictures emerged after Daily Mail Australia revealed an interview where Gibson claimed she had been ‘adopted’ by the Oromo people
During a video interview after a community meeting last October, Gibson introduced herself as ‘maqaan ko Sobantu’ (my name is Sobantu) – and was quick to speak about raising money.
‘We … discussed looking forward to the future and doing a community grouping to raise large amounts of money for the ongoing support of Oromia’, she said. (Oromia is the region where the Oromo people are from.)
Gibson currently owes taxpayers $500,000 in fines, penalties and interest, after she fraudulently claimed to donate money to charity. The Victorian Sherriff this week announced it would seize her assets.
Asked about Gibson’s fundraising remarks, a Consumer Affairs spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia: ‘We would encourage any organisation which uses volunteers for fundraising activities to consider their suitability for the role’.
Oromo sources claimed Gibson had been ‘acting more Oromo than Oromos’ since she was first spotted popping up at a community meeting in late October.
A friendship with a local community member is thought to have led to her sudden transformation.
‘(Belle Gibson) very committed to the role because she can speak a little Afaan Oromo,’ one source said.
‘It’s not a language that’s on Duolingo,’ the popular translation app.
This con artist looks exactly like the woman who started …. to act more Oromo than Oromo!
Prominent Melbourne Oromo community member Toltu Tofu this week
The Oromo are the largest ethnic group in the east African nation of Ethiopia and a large diaspora lives in Victoria.
Gibson – infamous for pretending she had brain cancer and cured it with healthy eating – attended an annual soccer event in January and has reportedly attended at least one wedding.
She has been filmed wearing traditional dress and brandishing an ‘Oromia’ themed umbrella.
Many local Oromo people were alarmed after seeing reports about the Victoria Sheriff’s office executed a warrant to ‘seize and sell’ Gibson’s assets on Wednesday.
‘As if Oromo people are not scammed enough!’ Toltu Tufa, a prominent member of the community, posted to Facebook this week.
‘This con artist looks exactly like the woman who started attending Melbourne Oromo community events to act more Oromo than Oromos.
‘She came out of no where and probably a matter of time before she started offering to take our money back to ‘help the cause’.’
Daily Mail Australia surfaced video of cancer fraudster Belle Gibson speaking about her involvement in Melbourne’s Oromo community this week
Gibson appeared in a cultural dress and carrying an ‘Oromia’ umbrella in an event last year
In a bizarre, 11 minute interview after October’s meeting, Gibson spoke at length about Ethiopian politics – even referring to the East African nation as ‘home’.
‘My involvement in the Oromo community has been for the last four years and it started through volunteering,’ Gibson told the community outlet Shabo Media.
A separate photo of Gibson emerged on social media overnight. Community sources believe she has converted to Islam
‘I became deeply invested in the community because I saw the character and the values of your people.
‘I feel completely adopted by your nation and your people.’
Community sources believed Gibson had become a follower of Islam – but, despite indications in the interview, that could not be confirmed.
In the clip, Gibson spoke of being involved in the struggle for independence in Oromia – one of nine states in Ethiopia.
‘I feel like my heart is as invested as yours’ and your family’s,’ she tells the reporter.
‘I see no difference in your struggle and the struggle that I have for fighting of the liberation of Oromia.
‘Your struggle is my struggle!’
At the time of the video, the Oromo community was largely supportive of ‘Sabontu’s’ interview in social media posts about the video.
Gibson lunches with friends in Melbourne about a year ago
Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Oromo make up 35 per cent of the population of the East African nation
Belle Gibson’s home in Melbourne’s north-east was ground zero for a ‘seize and sell’ search warrant executed by Sheriff’s Officers on Wednesday morning
One said: ‘You are one of our amongst heroes … we love you standing with us.’
THE OROMO: THE LARGEST ETHNIC GROUP IN ETHIOPIA
The Oromo make up the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.
They are mainly concentrated in the Oromia region, in central Ethiopia.
Oromia is one of nine states of the east African nation.
A large Oromo diaspora lives in Melbourne.
‘Sabontu, we proud of you!’ said another.
But a third said: ‘This is how they can fool you guys! Please wake up.’
But the president of a major group for the Oromo diaspora told Daily Mail Australia he had come across Gibson just ‘two or three times’.
Dr Tarekegn Chimdi, president of the Australian Oromo Community Association in Victoria, said: ‘She was mingling with people … We thought she might be a friend or a spouse of one of our community members.’
But Dr Chimdi said he didn’t know who she was, and nor had she volunteered for the organisation. ‘It’s fairly surprising, and what a shame.’
A Shabo Media spokesman, who filmed the interview with Gibson, said the cancer faker has ‘changed a lot’ and was ‘trying to move on’ from the scandal.
‘She’s part of the community, she’s into it – she’s trying to help out the community.
‘We know what she’s done before.’
The spokesman said she had been given the name Sabontu by the community.
Daily Mail Australia understands Gibson recently asked for the filmed interview to be taken down.
Gibson was hauled in front of the Federal Court last year and claimed ‘I’m not in a position to pay a $410,000 fine at this time’
Gibson has previously shown an interest in Africa, travelling to the continent via Singapore and Addis Ababa, while neglecting to pay back the taxpayer.
Gibson was originally fined $410,000 by the Federal Court for her false claims of charity donations.
This week, Daily Mail Australia exclusively revealed that Gibson’s debt has ballooned past the half a million dollar mark when including fines, penalties and interest.
Her home in Northcote was raided by Sheriff’s Officers on Wednesday executing a ‘seize and sell’ warrant.
Consumer Affairs Victoria wants to sell off assets Gibson has, in order to recoup the monies.
During her last appearance at Federal Court she said she was ‘not in a position to pay’ the fine.
Gibson did not answer the front door this week.
Belle Gibson’s fake cancer saga: How it happened
October 1991: Belle Gibson is born
May 2009: Gibson claims to have undergone multiple operations on her heart and also momentarily died on the operating table
July 2009: Gibson claims that a doctor diagnosed her with terminal brain cancer and that she only had four months to live.
Early 2013: She launches an Instagram account (@healing_belle) and accompanying website sharing healthy, wholefood recipes.
Mid 2013: Gibson releases an app of her recipes
Mid-2014: Gibson begins working with Apple on the development of an apple watch specific platform for the Whole Food Pantry
November 12, 2014: Cosmopolitan honours Gibson with a Fun, Fearless, Female award in the social media category.
March 8, 2015: The Age newspaper releases an investigation into Gibson’s claims of donating proceeds to charity.
April 2015: Women’s Weekly publishes an interview with Gibson, where she admits ‘none of it’s true’.
May 6, 2015: Victoria’s consumer watchdog launches legal proceedings against Gibson’s false claims of defeating cancer by way of a wholefood diet
June 2015: Gibson gives a TV interview with Nine’s Tara Brown, program where she claims ‘I’m not trying to get away with anything’
September 2017: Gibson is fined $410,000 by the Federal Court for her false claims of charitable donations
The judge describes her as having a ‘relentless obsession with herself and what serves her best interests’
June 2019: Almost two years after she was ordered to pay the fine, Gibson tells the court: ‘I’m not in a position to pay a $410,000 fine at this stage’
December 2019: Consumer Affairs Victoria quietly issues a warrant ‘of seizure or sale’ against Gibson
January 22, 2020: Sheriff executes a ‘seize and sell’ warrant on Gibson’s Northcote home, following inquiries from Daily Mail Australia
January 23: Daily Mail Australia reveals she has been ‘adopted’ by an Ethiopian group,