The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) confirmed its investigations into dozens of Canadians for possible tax evasion linked to the now infamous Panama Papers leak. The investigations, confirmed in November of last year, reportedly involve 85 Canadian citizens.
“Search warrants were executed by the agency and in some instances criminal investigations for tax evasion are ongoing,” a CRA spokesperson, Chloé Luciani-Girouard, told HuffPost Canada in November of 2016. “The vast majority of Canadians pay their fair share of taxes, but some wealthy Canadians buy their way out of paying what they owe. This has to change in order to ensure a tax system that is more responsive and fair for all Canadians.”
To identify Canadians potentially involved in tax evasion, the agency says that it scrutinized over 11 million documents released in the leak and identified over 2,500 Canadian citizens linked to them in one way or another. The agency wouldn’t divulge precisely how it managed to get a hold of the 2.6 terabytes of data, which reportedly took days to download. However, it has publically said that it was able to obtain the trove of data via its tax treaty partners in the G20. Based on that information, the agency launched 85 investigations and initiated 60 audits.
“We are looking into what’s going on in these cases with a fine-toothed comb. If we can lay criminal charges, we will lay criminal charges,” Luciani-Girouard insisted. “As I’ve said since the beginning, nobody will be able to hide.”
The CRA has also petitioned the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to turn over any files they might have on Canadian citizens named in the Panama Papers. It filed a motion in court in November to obtain the files on the grounds that it wants to determine whether or not RBC clients made use of instruments like shell companies or offshore accounts in order to evade some or all of their tax obligations. It wants the names or identifying information on the RBC clients, as well as information on any offshore entities, like the names of directors and shareholders. In addition, the agency is also asking the bank for any due diligence it did on relevant accounts to ascertain who really owns them. In total, it’s believed that the RBC and its affiliates were somehow involved in setting up or handling well over 400 offshore companies for clients using Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the heart of the scandal.
“It is the experience of the CRA that Canadian taxpayers who hold property through an offshore entity, or who may carry on business through an offshore entity, may not comply with their duties and obligations,” the CRA said in the court application to get access to the files. The bank agreed to comply with requests of the CRA, explaining in a statement that while it does completely respect client confidentiality when lawful, it will fully cooperate with regulators. It plans to hand over 40 years of records on the hundreds of its clients named in the Panama Papers.
Canada is not the only place where citizens are facing legal repercussions for tax evasion linked to the Panama Papers. In the UK, for example, the government is reportedly investigating 22 people for tax evasion as a result of the papers, and 3 arrests have already taken place.
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