For years, Adriana Benhamou Weiss was a fixture on Sydney‘s social scene, with the glamorous interior designer travelling the world, attending high-profile events and rubbing shoulders with elite clients.
She decorated the mansions of Australian multi-millionaires, designing hotels and apartment developments in Paris, Moscow, Italy and Dubai.
But now the 40-year-old splits her time between Australia and Paris, where she has had to start fresh and launch a brand-new global design firm after being banned from operating in her home country.
Adriana Benhamou Weiss has been convicted of falsifying her business’ bank statements
But it doesn’t stop the former Sydney socialite from living a luxurious life in Paris
Following the collapse of the company she shared with her mother (Moroccan-born stylist and entertainer mother Helene), Benhamou Designs Pty Ltd, Adriana went to Paris.
Her mother rebranded herself as Helene in Paris, sharing videos to YouTube singing French romance classics.
Weiss quickly followed her mother and started Iconique Studio – a Paris-based international design firm.
The other half of her time is spent visiting her children in Australia.
While she may be back to living her life of luxury on the other side of the planet, Weiss has suffered a fall of grace from the days she spent on Sydney’s social scene.
The socialite was based in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, with friends like home loan multi-millionaire ‘Aussie’ John Symond’s wife Amber Symond and wealthy jeweller Alina Barlow.
Adriana Benhamou Weiss (right) now runs a business in Paris. Picture: Instagram
Weiss suffered a fall of grace from the days she spent on Sydney’s social scene. Picture: Instagram
She also appeared in Australian Vogue and was often spotted out with Ellie Aitken and Roxy Jacenko.
The downfall began in 2018 when the 40-year-old’s business, Benhamou Designs Pty Ltd, went into liquidation.
Ferrier Hodgson was appointed as liquidator, with a report from October 2018 alleging Weiss attributed the failure of the company to ‘Australian Taxation Office default assessments and poor business management’.
At the time, the business owed the ATO more than $3.9 million, with total liabilities listed at more than $8.1 million.
The former socialite shares her work and life on Instagram. Picture: Instagram
The report found the company failed due to ‘poor financial control including lack of records, poor strategic management, inadequate cash flow or high case use, trading losses and significant disputes with customers and suppliers’.
‘In my opinion, the director has permitted the company to incur debts in the order of $7.5 million at a time when the company was insolvent,’ the report stated.
Things got even worse for Weiss when she was charged with 12 counts of falsifying business records after she directed an employee to photoshop bank transactions on six occasions over four currencies equivalent to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission conducted the investigation against the socialite before she was eventually charged.
Adriana Benhamou Weiss’ Sydney-based business, Benhamou Designs Pty Ltd, went into liquidation in 2018. Pictured at Downing Local Court
She eventually pleaded guilty to six of the charges, with court documents revealing the offending occurred over a month in 2016 – two years before the company went bust.
The glamorous former socialite fronted Sydney’s District Court on Friday after flying in from Paris where the court was told she hired a junior worker in 2015 who she later asked to help her in the offending.
Judge William Fitzsimmons told the court Weiss, as the director of the business, entered into an agreement to construct a new office space and home office in Sydney for DEC Services.
She promised she could provide a ‘cheaper service’ over her competitors because she owned a furniture manufacturer and distribution company in Dubai.
She was charged with 12 counts of falsifying financial records. Pictured at Downing Local Court
The court was told work immediately started on the project, but the building company involved quickly revealed it had never received payment for the demolition of the site.
Weiss ordered the junior employee to Photoshop fake NAB payment confirmation receipts, showing transactions from her business to suppliers and contractors which were false.
She also took money which clients had paid her for work and put them on her personal credit card, the court was told.
In a meeting with DEC Services, Weiss showed the fake payment transactions to prove payments were being made.
Judge Fitzsimmons told the court the junior staffer said it was her first job out of uni and she felt ‘compelled’ to complete the work for her boss.
‘She procured a young employee to engage in the conduct, which makes it more serious,’ he said.
Weiss pleaded guilty to six of the charges and was given good behaviour and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine. Pictured at Downing Local Court
‘They were elaborate forgeries of official NAB documents, which she presented in an effort to deceive others.’
The court was told that during the period of offending, Benhamou Designs had an intake of $360,450 from clients.
Court documents revealed about $156,000 had been funnelled straight into Weiss’ personal credit card and was spent on hotels, clothes and other personal items.
The judge said Weiss’ conduct was ‘elaborate and calculated’ as she had enlisted the services of a young employee who was ‘vulnerable and susceptible’ to perform tasks of her employer.
‘Her role was the first job since completing her studies and she considered it was appropriate; she said if she refused to do it, she would not have been given projects and would’ve been treated differently,’ Judge Fitzsimmons said.
Weiss apologised to everyone ‘affected by’ her conduct in a statement. Pictured at Downing Local Court
He said the offending is more serious than if Weiss had done it alone.
The judge said Weiss had attempted to avoid accountability after substantial funds were paid to her business in good faith.
Weiss was sentenced to an aggregate term of imprisonment for 10 months but was immediately released on a recognisance release order on the condition she is of good behaviour for 18 months and pays a fine of $20,000.
In a statement, Weiss apologised to everyone ‘affected by’ her conduct.
‘I am grateful to the Court for acknowledging my personal circumstances in its sentencing today,’ she said.
‘I am committed to moving forward both personally and professionally with positivity and gratitude.’