Panama Papers probe sees CRA raid in West Vancouver

Investigators with the Canada Revenue Agency raided an address in West Vancouver Wednesday in connection with an investigation into possible tax evasion connected to the Panama Papers.

CRA investigators went into the West Vancouver address with a search warrant Wednesday morning, assisted by the West Vancouver Police.

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The West Vancouver raid was one of three carried out simultaneously by about 30 CRA investigators on Wednesday. Other searches were carried out in Calgary and Toronto.

The CRA did not release the address where the search in West Vancouver was conducted or any names associated with it.

The agency said in a statement the searches were connected to a criminal investigation into offshore tax evasion related to the data leak from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, made public in the Panama Papers.

“The CRA’s investigation identified a series of transactions involving foreign corporations and several transfers through offshore bank accounts used allegedly to evade taxes,” the agency stated.

The tax agency said the federal Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) was central to the investigation.

Investigators were reportedly searching for evidence of offences against the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act. No charges have been laid in connection with this week’s raid. That could take years, the agency acknowledged.

According to the CRA, the investigation is “one of 42 international/offshore tax evasion cases that CRA is currently investigating which involve complex structures and potentially multimillion dollars in taxes evaded, which is consistent with our priority of focussing on sophisticated and well-organized tax evasion schemes.”

The tax agency added it is pursuing additional criminal investigations relating to the Panama Papers data leak.

The Panama Papers leak – which included the names of wealthy people and corporations using offshore tax havens to hide their money – was made public by a global consortium of media outlets in 2016. Since then, the Canada Revenue Agency has been criticized for not acting on that information.

A number of names and addresses in the Panama Papers leak are from West Vancouver, although that doesn’t necessarily mean those people have done anything illegal. Further information about the raids is expected to be revealed by court documents at a later date.

In addition to its Panama Papers investigations, the Canada Revenue Agency is also conducted what it has dubbed the Postal Code Project, which is targeting addresses in wealthy neighbourhoods.

The CRA is paying special attention to expensive homes owned by corporations, trusts or non-residents and examining whether the income declared appears to match the lifestyles of those living in the homes.

Recent census results put West Vancouver, where average home prices hover at $3 million, as having one of the highest rates of people with “low income” in Metro Vancouver, as measured by income reported to the government.

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