The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has carried out a series of simultaneous raids in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto related to offshore tax havens identified in the Panama Papers.
Agents for the CRA executed the three search warrants Wednesday morning in West Vancouver, Calgary and the Greater Toronto Area, and said in a written statement that all were related to the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, whose internal files were leaked online and shared with journalists at The Toronto Star newspaper and CBC Radio nearly two years ago when thousands of documents were released online as part of the “Panama Papers,” a massive leak of information that laid bare the inner workings of the offshore tax evasion industry.
The Toronto 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 wealthy and politically connected clients.
While CRA has since audited 122 Canadians related to disclosures in the Panama Papers, this is the first time that such a major investigative milestone has been publicized as it happened.
CRA officials wouldn’t divulge the addresses of the locations that it raided, or say what kinds of documents or computer devices were seized in the raids. But the CRA did say that 30 criminal investigators from CRA, as well as local police in each location, took part in the raids.
“The CRA’s investigation identified a series of transactions involving foreign corporations and several transfers through offshore bank accounts used allegedly to evade taxes,” stated a press release issued by CRA. Investigators collaborated with foreign tax agents and Canada’s money-laundering watchdog Fintrac to prepare the search warrants, added the written statement.
Offshore tax avoidance and evasion costs Canada an estimated $15 billion a year. The CRA says it continues to pursue additional criminal investigations based on the information leaked in the Panama Papers. A poll last December found that 90% of Canadians believe tax havens are morally wrong, and 87% want their use prohibited by law.