The results of the Canada Revenue Agency’s review of a top Liberal fundraiser’s use of offshore trusts may never be made public, Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough confirmed this weekend, and there is no timeline for when it might be complete.
“I honestly don’t know the exact details of their process or their procedures … if that leads to a fine or a criminal investigation, I think it’s a little premature to tell,” Qualtrough said of the CRA’s review of some of the activities and names mentioned in the massive leak known as the Paradise Papers.
Those names include Stephen Bronfman, a longtime family friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a fundraising powerhouse for the federal Liberal party. Last week, the prime minister defended Bronfman publicly, saying he accepts the businessman’s assurances that he has followed all the rules
“I can assure you there’s no double standard, nobody is above the law,” Qualtrough said this weekend. “Wherever these investigations lead, (the CRA) will follow.”
She confirmed that “a number of individuals” are being looked at, and the CRA is “vigorously” pursuing leads provided by the leak.
WATCH: How do the Paradise Papers affect Canada?
But, she acknowledged, “unless they fine (Bronfman), or unless it leads to a criminal prosecution” it’s unlikely that the results will be publicized.
Qualtrough appeared on The West Block to address questions about the Paradise Papers leak and the federal government’s response. Global News had requested an interview with Finance Minister Bill Morneau or National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, but neither was available.
Qualtrough said that Ottawa takes international tax evasion and avoidance “really seriously,” but it will be up to her cabinet colleagues to determine if new laws are required to crack down on what, at least at this point, are largely legal strategies to reduce tax bills by moving money offshore.
WATCH: Accusations against Liberal fundraiser named in Paradise Papers called ‘completely ridiculous’
It’s estimated that government coffers are deprived of between $6 to $8 billion in tax revenue each year as a result.
Qualtrough said that in the last year, the CRA has moved over 600 cases toward a criminal investigation, closed over 220 audits, executed hundreds of search warrants and logged over 100 criminal prosecutions.
A total of $44 million in fines have also been handed out to people who help others move their money around in ways that illegally avoid the taxman, she added.
“I can assure you that I have every confidence in the CRA that they are conducting independent investigations, both proactively and reactively, with regard to the Paradise Papers.”
— Watch the full interview with Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough above