Paradise Papers: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s election fundraiser may have broken laws
Long-standing offshore ties of the Liberal Party moneyman and his famous family provide jarring contrast to Canadian prime minister Trudeau’s campaign for tax fairness. (Written by: Ryan Chittum and Harvey Cashore)
AS A candidate and as Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has made economic and tax fairness a centrepiece of his political message. “We can afford to do more for the people who need it by doing less for the people who don’t,” he said while running for office. Trudeau had begun his campaign for a new kind of Canadian politics by turning to a close friend to help raise funds for it: Stephen R Bronfman. A financier and scion of one Canada’s most famous families, Bronfman quickly transformed Trudeau’s Liberal Party from moribund political pauper to financial juggernaut, nearly doubling donations in two years. As a thank-you gesture, he sent thousands of donor pairs of mittens in Liberal Party-red. “Justin is very, very salable,” Bronfman, 53, once observed to reporters. “He’s got a great name, and people want to find out who he is.” As the Liberal Party’s chief fundraiser, Bronfman took on a mantle long worn by his godfather, Leo Kolber, the jokingly self-proclaimed “consigliere” of the Bronfman family and longtime pillar of the Liberal Party establishment. Kolber ran many of the Bronfmans’ businesses for decades, becoming wealthy himself in the process. But while Trudeau’s tax-the-rich message res- onates with admirers around the world, a trove of secret documents suggest that Bronfman’s private-investment company, Claridge, for a quarter of a century quietly helped move millions of dollars offshore to Kolber family entities that may have avoided taxes in Canada, the United States and Israel, via a family trust, shell companies and accounting moves questioned by experts. Some of those moves may have run afoul of the rules, according to tax experts, and came as lawyers representing Bronfman, Kolber and other clients with offshore interests were credited with leading a lobbying campaign that successfully staved off a crackdown on offshore trusts long sought by Canadian tax officials.