Paradise Papers: what we know so far about Canada and Americans

The Paradise Papers document breach was reportedly triggered by a damning open letter from Canadians to Donald Trump accusing the US president of benefiting from offshore tax havens. How did it happen? Last year…

Paradise Papers: what we know so far about Canada and Americans

The Paradise Papers document breach was reportedly triggered by a damning open letter from Canadians to Donald Trump accusing the US president of benefiting from offshore tax havens.

How did it happen?

Last year the US and UK lifted a 10-year-old embargo on the publication of leaked documents from offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, known as the Paradise Papers.

The revelation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists included information about more than 2,000 offshore companies set up by the Panama-based firm.

It also detailed the £250m of payments in the year to 2017 by Antigua and Barbuda to an offshore trust created by the government of the British overseas territory to its prime minister.

Widespread questions about the relationship between the offshore trust, which was used to hold a large share of Antigua’s wealth, and the prime minister’s associates were raised on the BBC’s Panorama.

The Paradise Papers: the most devastating leak in decades – interactive Read more

US congressional committees then pledged to investigate the revelations – and with UK MPs and US politicians also pledging to look into the matter, someone decided it was time to contact their Canadian counterparts.

Why?

The Conservative government of Justin Trudeau was under pressure over the multimillion-dollar paid to a company set up by a former big spender during Trudeau’s campaign for the 2015 federal election.

A frustrated former chief of staff to Trudeau tweeted in January 2018: “Canada is now facilitating millions of dollars in personal benefit to our Prime Minister from trusts that benefit family and friends.”

On 11 April 2018 the prime minister’s director of communications said the government was “looking into the matter and will take appropriate action”. That prompted a renewed push from former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien to look into the matter – and set about doing so.

What have they found out?

The authorities then began digging deeper and on 21 November 2018 admitted they were digging even deeper.

They released the letter from the Canadian citizens, which details the list of more than 2,000 individuals who had been identified by employees of the law firm, as owning companies set up by the firm to invest their money, with companies benefiting them.

The Sun revealed five days later a sixth person had been revealed to have done so. That person was the Bahamian businesswoman and former Canadian ambassador to Kuwait, Judith Anisim.

But Canadian authorities have only indicated, without naming individuals, that Canada’s officials are investigating around 400 more people who may be involved. Canadian officials say they are “still in an initial review process”.

Who has been named so far?

The people named are many. A company set up by Arnaud Soula, the former Canadian ambassador to Malta, and owned by a member of the same family, is reportedly registered to a company set up by Leonard Soula, the billionaire chair of Canadian ice hockey team Quebec Nordiques.

A farmed salmon plant built with Russian money in Nova Scotia has been owned by Rusto Laberdee, a member of the Canadian federal cabinet.

Jean Chretien accused the government of orchestrating the leak of the Canadian Paradise Papers. Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

Among others, Vladimir Putin’s brother-in-law, a son-in-law of Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and others tied to the sale of the Yukos assets in 2001 have been named.

Why hasn’t Canada charged anyone?

The Canadian investigation is unlikely to yield a single smoking gun, but three lines of inquiry: Is there any wrongdoing, will the person refuse to cooperate and if they do cooperate, will that help the Canadian investigators determine if there was wrongdoing?

The British Columbia provincial government, which has jurisdiction over Canadian investments, has not charged anyone in Canada. A spokesperson told the Guardian: “The B.C. government has no basis to charge anyone, we have no evidence to support criminal allegations against any party, and we are supporting the investigation.”

Paradise Papers: Fairfax Media, a newspaper owned by billionaire David Tepper, has set up a separate group of journalists to investigate the offshore schemes around Tepper, one of the report’s most quoted wealthy figures. Tepper has denied wrongdoing.

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