Canada Revenue Agency has confirmed it is investigating dozens of Canadians for possible tax evasion linked to the Panama Papers leak earlier this year.
The agency said it combed through 11.5 million documents from that leak, and identified 2,600 with a Canadian link. From those, it opened investigations into 85 Canadians, and has launched 60 audits.
Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday September 22, 2016 in Ottawa. (Photo: The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
“Search warrants were executed by the agency and in some instances criminal investigations for tax evasion are ongoing,” a CRA spokesperson said in an email to HuffPost Canada.
“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,” CRA said.
The Panama Papers are a trove of 11.5 million financial records from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm which has been called one of the world’s largest creators of shell companies.
The documents were leaked earlier this year to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which then worked with news organizations, including some in Canada, to dig through the data.
A security guard sit outside the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama City, Sunday, April 3, 2016. Some 11.5 million documents from the law firm were leaked to the press this year, sparking investigations into tax fraud. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
The Toronto Star, one of the news organizations involved in the ICIJ effort, previously reported that 350 Canadian names had been identified in the documents.
Canada is not the only place where the Panama Papers have led to criminal investigations. Twenty-two people are facing tax evasion investigations in the U.K., where three arrests linked to the Panama Papers have already taken place.
CRA would not provide further details on the Canadian investigations because it “does not comment on a criminal investigation that it may or may not be undertaking.”
The Royal Bank of Canada featured prominently in the Panama Papers, showing the bank had been a frequent user of Mossack Fonseca’s services. The papers showed the bank had set up at least 370 offshore companies for Canadian clients since the 1970s.
Offshore companies aren’t illegal in and of themselves, but they are frequently used to evade taxes.
RBC responded by handing over 40 years’ worth of bank records to CRA.
RBC "works within the legal and regulatory framework of every country in which we operate. ... Tax evasion is illegal, and we have established controls, policies and procedures in place to detect and prevent it occurring through RBC,” the company told media at the time of the leak.