CRA vows action on Canadian tax evaders exposed in Paradise Papers

Names exposed include Brian Mulroney, Paul Martin and Jean Chretien and the Queen

The Canada Revenue Agency says it won’t hesitate to investigate new evidence of offshore tax evasion in the wake of a second massive leak of tax haven financial records.

The leak of some 13.4 million records, dubbed the Paradise Papers, lifts another veil on the often murky ways in which the wealthy — including more than 3,000 Canadian individuals and entities — stash their money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.

Among the names that pop up in the records with some connection to offshore accounts are former Canadian prime ministers Brian Mulroney, Paul Martin and Jean Chretien, the Queen, U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, and the past and current chief fundraisers for the federal Liberal party.

Neither the CRA nor any court has determined the Canadians did anything wrong.

Offshore accounts are used by wealthy individuals and corporations around the world as a perfectly legal way to reduce their tax burden, although the anonymity provided to account holders has also led to associations with tax evasion, money laundering and organized crime.

The Paradise Papers were obtained by German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, including CBC/Radio Canada and the Toronto Star which published details on Sunday.

The media outlets did not disclose how they acquired the documents, which consist primarily of client records of offshore law firm Appleby, as well as some records from offshore corporate services firms Estera and Asiaciti Trust.

In an apparent attempt to pre-empt the news reports, the CRA issued a statement last Friday, detailing the agency’s efforts to crack down on tax evasion and tax avoidance, which intensified following the first huge leak of tax-haven records, known as the Panama Papers, in April 2016.

The agency said it’s invested $1 billion to tackle the problem and currently has more than 990 audits and more than 42 criminal investigations underway related to offshore tax havens.

As a result of audits over the last two years, the CRA said it identified some $25 billion in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties. And last year, it levied more than $44 million in penalties on tax advisers who facilitated non-compliance with Canadian tax laws.

The agency said it’s also working closely with 36 other countries in the Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration on more effective ways to detect and deal with tax evasion and avoidance.

Evidently anticipating Sunday’s release of the Paradise Papers, the CRA promised to do more should new details of questionable practices emerge.

“In the event that further details come to light, CRA will not hesitate to investigate and take further action as warranted,” the agency said.

“The government of Canada will continue to work with the provinces and territories, as well as other tax administrations and all other partners, to ensure a tax system that works for Canadians. In addition, the CRA will continue to build on its capacity to detect and crack down on tax cheats and ensure that those who choose to break the law face the consequences and are held accountable for their actions.”

A spokesman for National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, said on Sunday that ”the CRA is reviewing links to Canadian entities and will take appropriate action in regards to the Paradise Papers.”

Tax avoidance measures involving offshore trusts are legal, provided that the trust is genuinely managed offshore and that Canadian taxes are paid on any Canadian contributions.

According to the Toronto Star and CBC/Radio Canada, the records suggest that Stephen Bronfman and his family’s Montreal-based investment company, Claridge Inc., were linked to an offshore trust in the Cayman Islands that may have used questionable means to avoid paying millions in taxes.

Bronfman is a close friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who tapped him in 2013 to fill the role of revenue chair — effectively, the chief fundraiser — for the federal Liberal party.

The offshore trust also involved former chief Liberal fundraiser and senator Leo Kolber and his son, Jonathan Kolber.

William Brock, a lawyer for Bronfman and Jonathan Kolber, denied any impropriety, telling the CBC that his clients “have always acted properly and ethically, including fully complying with all applicable laws.” Any suggestion of ”false documentation, fraud, ‘disguised’ conduct, tax evasion or similar conduct is false,” Brock added.

The Prime Minister’s Office referred questions about Bronfman to the Liberal party.

Party spokesman Braeden Caley said Bronfman’s role is strictly a volunteer position devoted to fundraising, “not policy decisions.” The revenue chair is a “non-voting position” on the party’s national board, Caley added.

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The three candidates vying for the Courtenay-Comox riding: Ronna-Rae Leonard (NDP) Brennan Day (Liberal) and Gillian Anderson (Green)
BC VOTES 2020 – Courtenay-Comox candidates address affordable housing

In an effort to inform the Courtenay-Comox riding constituents, we have supplied… Continue reading

The Comox Valley Hospice Society recently received a generous donation from a personal donor to help fill a fundraising gap created by COVID-19. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Comox Valley Hospice Society receives significant donation

CVHS is facing a fundraising shortage created by the pandemic

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

The Comox Valley Glacier Kings sit third in the VIJHL North Division with six points, one behind the Oceanside Generals. The Yetis face the division-leading Campbell River Storm in a home and home this weekend. File photo
Comox Valley Glacier Kings win three of first six games

Six games into the 2020/21 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season, the… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Most Read