First Panama Pa­pers raid hits West Van

Searches also car­ried out in Cal­gary and Toronto

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - News -

Nearly two years af­ter the Panama Pa­pers leak was made pub­lic, Cana­dian tax of­fi­cials have car­ried out their first ma­jor raids, ex­e­cut­ing three search war­rants across the coun­try.

The si­mul­ta­ne­ous raids Wed­nes­day morn­ing in West Van­cou­ver, Cal­gary and the GTA were all re­lated to the Pana­ma­nian law firm Mos­sack Fon­seca, whose in­ter­nal files were leaked to the Ger­man news­pa­per Sud­deutsche Zeitung and shared with jour­nal­ists around the world, in­clud­ing the Toronto Star and Cbc/ra­dio-canada.

In 2016 and 2017, thou­sands of re­ports were pub­lished based on the leak, dubbed the Panama Pa­pers, lay­ing bare the in­ner work­ings of the off­shore tax­eva­sion in­dus­try, which has or­ches­trated the move­ment of tril­lions of dol­lars out of the reach of tax au­thor­i­ties around the world.

The Star and CBC found more than 300 Cana­dian pass­ports in Mos­sack Fon­seca’s files and iden­ti­fied Canada’s big­gest off­shore clear­ing houses, which used the Pana­ma­nian law firm to set up thou­sands of off­shore shell com­pa­nies on be­half of their clients.

While the Canada Rev­enue Agency has been au­dit­ing 122 Cana­di­ans found in the leak and says it has ex­e­cuted a num­ber of search war­rants pre­vi­ously, this is the first time such a ma­jor in­ves­tiga­tive mile­stone has been pub­li­cized as it hap­pened.

CRA of­fi­cials wouldn’t di­vulge the ad­dresses raided or what kinds of doc­u­ments or com­puter de­vices were seized but did say that 30 crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the CRA as well as mem­bers of lo­cal po­lice took part.

“The CRA’S in­ves­ti­ga­tion iden­ti­fied a se­ries of trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing for­eign cor­po­ra­tions and sev­eral trans­fers through off­shore bank ac­counts used al­legedly to evade taxes,” states a press re­lease put out Wed­nes­day.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors col­lab­o­rated with for­eign tax agents and Canada’s money-laun­der­ing watch­dog Fin­trac to pre­pare the search war­rants, the state­ment said.

Last year, CRA as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner Ted Gal­li­van said his pri­or­ity was go­ing af­ter lawyers and ac­coun­tants who or­ches­trated off­shore tax eva­sion schemes for “dozens” of clients.

Last month, the Toronto Star re­ported that tax au­thor­i­ties around the world had re­cov­ered more than half a bil­lion dol­lars in tax through their in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the Panama Pa­pers. But Canada will not say if it has re­cov­ered any­thing.

Off­shore tax avoid­ance and eva­sion costs Canada an es­ti­mated $15 bil­lion every year.

The CRA says it con­tin­ues to pur­sue ad­di­tional crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions based on the leak.

A poll last De­cem­ber found that 90 per cent of Cana­di­ans be­lieve tax havens are morally wrong, and 87 per cent want their use pro­hib­ited by law.

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