Trudeau Fundraiser Says He Followed Tax Rules as Agency Reviews ReportBy and
Canada revenue ministry to review ‘Paradise Papers’ reports
Report links Trudeau fundraiser to $60 million offshore trust
Canadian tax authorities are reviewing reports linking a key fundraiser for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offshore trusts in the Caribbean.
Montreal-based businessman Stephen Bronfman, son of billionaire Charles Bronfman, was among the individuals cited by news organizations including the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Radio-Canada and the Toronto Star Sunday in the latest leak of bank documents suggesting some global business leaders and politicians may be using offshore tax havens to shelter money.
The CBC, Radio-Canada and the Star are part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which obtained 13.4 million files from two “offshore services firms’’ and 19 tax havens. The ICIJ has branded the leak the “Paradise Papers’’ because of its similarity to the “Panama Papers’’ in 2016 from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, for which the organization won a Pulitzer Prize.
The Canada Revenue Agency “is reviewing links to Canadian entities and will take appropriate action in regards to the Paradise Papers,’’ John Power, a spokesman for National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, said Sunday via e-mail. Lebouthillier is responsible for the revenue agency.
In a statement Monday, Bronfman said he has "always fully complied with all legal requirements, including with respect to taxes."
William Brock, a Montreal lawyer who represents the Bronfmans and the Kolber family who are also named in the report, declined to comment when reached by Bloomberg News Sunday evening. In an email to the Toronto Star and the CBC, Brock said his clients “have always acted properly and ethically, including fully complying with all applicable laws and requirements. Suggestion of false documentation, fraud, ‘disguised’ conduct, tax evasion or similar conduct is false and a distortion of the facts.”
According to the reports in the Canadian media outlets, the Bronfman family and Jonathan Kolber, the son of Leo Kolber, a retired Liberal Senator and former fundraiser for the party, have used a $60 million offshore trust in the Cayman Islands to invest in Israel.
Stephen Bronfman’s statement on Monday said that "a single loan made over a quarter century ago" by him to the Kolber Trust was repaid five months later on a "fully commercial basis." Bronfman "had no other direct or indirect involvement whatsoever in the Kolber Trust," and has "fully complied with all legal requirements" on taxes, the statement said.
Bronfman serves as revenue chairman of the Liberal Party of Canada, and was lead fundraiser for Trudeau in the 2015 election campaign.
Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for Trudeau, referred questions Sunday to the Liberal Party and to Lebouthillier.
Bronfman’s role with the Liberal Party “is as a volunteer, and has consisted strictly of assisting the board on matters related to building on the Liberal movement’s strong grassroots fundraising support, not policy decisions,’’ Braeden Caley, a spokesman for the party, said via e-mail. The role of revenue chair is a non-voting position, Caley added.
Trudeau’s government is working to crack down on tax evasion. Its March budget allocated C$523.9 million ($410 million) over five years to strengthen tax enforcement, while projecting an additional C$2.5 billion in revenue from the efforts. The CRA has more than 990 audits and more than 42 criminal investigations related to offshore accounts under way, according to a statement issued late Friday by the agency.
The Paradise Papers, which were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung before being shared with the ICIJ, haven’t been publicly released. Some of the documents come from the Bermuda law firm Appleby.
Bronfman chairs Claridge Inc. -- the private-equity and real-estate firm that his father Charles founded in 1987 -- in addition to having created a charitable foundation. Stephen’s grandfather, Samuel Bronfman, founded Seagram Co., the spirits maker that would go on to become North America’s biggest distiller before its acquisition by Vivendi SA of France in 2000.
— With assistance by Bill Allison, and Lynnley Browning