Websites that I-Team discovered were dumping money offshore — using the government’s criteria for them — include Saltbox Services, MFEX Corp., Paradigm Ltd., Domain Exchange Ltd., Wepac and ICI Overseas. ICI Overseas, owned by Carleton University in Ottawa, has been under the spotlight by the U.S. Justice Department for years.
Indeed, a July 24, 2012, report from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that ICI Overseas “was cheating the United States on its tax bills for more than 10 years.”
Cathy Wiavis from ICI stands at the front of the ICI Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg in 2013. I-Team has learned the company has lobbied the federal government for tax breaks for entities like itself, not only at home, but also in European Union member states.
Many of the companies using the plaques were part of the Canadian International Trade Mission headed by Perrin Beatty at the time, who is now president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The trips were sponsored by Canadian businesses and the purpose of the trips was to open new markets for Canada around the world, according to Canada’s national trade office.
Congressional hearings and headlines at the time highlighted offshore tax havens as “tax havens”. In the 1980s, Canada got out of international tax treaties, to help combat tax evasion. At the time, the Canadian government was fighting a lawsuit from the United States demanding the return of taxes owed by the Canadian government’s “super company” General Electric.
A year after the Liberal government of Canada quit tax treaties, a Canadian newspaper reported on the lengths some countries went to in dealing with their offshore funds, which were considered money laundering in the eyes of United States authorities.
Related: How ‘Enron tax returns’ wiped out billions, while Ericsson took home a US$550 million payday
In October 2011, as the Canadian government negotiated the so-called Winnipeg Accord, the Toronto Star reported that these deals for foreign money moved offshore had spawned a huge swath of financial crime and tax evasion in Canada. At the time, Canada’s deputy justice minister told the Toronto Star: “It is like the ‘Enron tax returns.’ We will have people from throughout the world paying their taxes to comply with treaties. We will be assuming it’s less of a risk with respect to this.”
In February 2014, then-international relations minister John Baird announced that the Canadian government would be “strengthening” the “Winnipeg Accord and other multilateral treaties to deter corporations and individuals from avoiding their tax responsibilities.”
From 2018 to 2018, the federal and Ontario governments have laid 50 charges against companies who have agreed to help capture some of the capital they had been able to hide offshore, and others who have encouraged its use. But a report released by the Canadian Financial Accountability Office found “few individuals or entities have been prosecuted and convicted of tax evasion in Canada.”
In 2017, Canadian authorities also used the designation as a threat in an alleged attempt to silence Greenpeace Canadian director Chantal Bernier and her associate.
The government held a press conference the day after the announcement to accuse Bernier of “exceeding the boundaries of acceptable work” and distributing “false information.” As with the Trump administration’s move, Canadian authorities were telling the press that their actions were in response to international negotiations.
But while the government finally held court, the private company owners continued to count their money in the Bahamas, according to reports filed with the Bahamas Tax Authority by people who had gone there.