Panama Papers: Canada wants copies so taxman can probe for tax evasion

Mossack Fonseca law firm sign is pictured in Panama City, April 4, 2016.
Mossack Fonseca law firm sign is pictured in Panama City, April 4, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada's revenue agency said on Tuesday it has asked for copies of the Panama Papers in order to examine them for evidence of offshore tax evasion by Canadian clients of the law firm Mossack Fonseca.

In a statement, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) said it has requested the leaked data from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and plans to cross-reference the information with its own files.

The daily Toronto Star, which is part of the consortium, has said some 350 Canadians are listed in the 11.5 million leaked documents.

"The agency is actively pursuing the cooperation of its tax treaty partners (including Panama) and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to obtain all of the leaked records that pertain to Canadian residents," the CRA said.

It said it would pursue audits in those cases "to identify Canadian taxpayers who may have used accounts to hide or conceal money offshore in an effort to avoid or evade paying tax."

Suspected wrongdoing would be probed by an internal CRA criminal unit or referred for possible criminal prosecution, it said.

The vast stash of records from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca was obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with more than 100 media groups by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The network of journalists published their first findings on Sunday after a year-long probe.

Offshore financial dealings are not illegal in themselves, though they may be used to hide assets from tax authorities, launder the proceeds of criminal activities or conceal misappropriated or politically inconvenient wealth.