BEIJING — China’s foreign ministry said on Friday that an investigation into two Canadians detained on state security charges since December last year had ended, and the case had been turned over to prosecutors.
Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were detained in China shortly after Canadian authorities arrested Huawei Technologies Co’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. warrant.
Canada says their arrests were “arbitrary,” and has been in a diplomatic dispute with China since then.
“Whoever started the trouble first should end it,” Geng Shuang, spokesman at China’s foreign ministry, said at a regular media briefing.
“We urge the Canadians to value China’s solemn stance and concerns, correct their mistakes and immediately release Ms Meng Wanzhou to allow her to return peacefully to China.”
On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the U.S. government should not finalize a trade deal with China unless the pact also secured the release of the two Canadians.
Joseph Crook, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Ottawa, said Washington was deeply concerned by the arrest of the two Canadians.
Trudeau on NATO’s approach to China: ‘We will continue to stand up for Canadian interests’
Geng said Canada’s attempt to link Sino-U.S. trade matters with other issues was doomed to fail.
“As for the two citizens Canada is constantly nagging about, these two people were suspected of conducting activities that harm China’s national security,” Geng said.
“China’s investigative organs have completed their investigation, and according to law, have handed them over to procuratorate and is going through the review and being prosecuted.”
© 2019 Reuters
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca
The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning it would be a “fatal mistake” if the developed world takes the attitude of “we’ll vaccinate our people, and people in other parts of the world can take care of their own.”
John Nkengasong, speaking Thursday to reporters, said that “it’s in no one’s interest we continue to be in this tense situation,” and said more could have been done to address the global COVID-19 vaccine inequality.
But he celebrated that Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive vaccines via the global COVAX effort aimed at distributing doses to low-income countries. He said he hoped vaccinations would start Thursday in Ghana and that vaccine deliveries to other African countries will arrive in the coming days.
Africa over the past month has seen a decrease in the number of new cases after a strong resurgence in infections driven by a more infectious variant of the coronavirus discovered in South Africa. The continent surpassed 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths this month.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | Provinces offer different timelines for COVID-19 vaccine rollout:
As of early Thursday morning, Canada had reported 855,132 cases of COVID-19, with 30,395 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,807.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and one additional death, bringing the number of deaths in the province to five. The province said six people were in hospital, including three in intensive care.
“Each life lost is a tragedy, as well as a stark reminder of why our way of life has changed,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald.
Quebec reported 806 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 more deaths attributed to the virus, including five in the past 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 25, to 655, and the number of intensive care cases rose for a second consecutive day, with 10 more patients, for a total of 130.
In Ontario, health officials reported 1,054 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths linked to the virus. Hospitalizations stood at 675, with 287 people in intensive care.
WATCH | First Nation using isolation tents as housing:
Manitoba health officials reported 45 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and one additional death.
The Manitoba government has announced the location of its fourth site for large-scale vaccine distribution. Health officials said a so-called supersite will open in early March at a former hospital in Selkirk. There are similar sites already in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson.
British Columbia reported 456 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Wednesday.
Across the North, there were no new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nunavut or Yukon.
The Northwest Territories said on Wednesday it has vaccinated 42 per cent of its adult population to date. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said 14,520 first doses have been administered in the territory to date, while 1,934 people have been fully vaccinated.
Kandola also said the territory expects to receive another 16,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of this week. There were five active cases of COVID-19 in the Northwest Territories.
Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 112.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 63.5 million of the cases listed as recovered on a tracking site maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at nearly 2.5 million.
Pfizer announced Thursday that it has begun studying a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, part of a strategy to guard against mutated versions of the coronavirus.
Health authorities say first-generation COVID-19 vaccines still protect against variants that are emerging in different parts of the world. But manufacturers are starting to prepare now in case a more vaccine-resistant mutation comes along.
Pfizer said it will offer a third dose to 144 volunteers, drawing from people who participated in the vaccine’s early-stage U.S. testing last year. It wants to determine if an additional booster shot given six to 12 months after the first two doses would rev up the immune system enough to ward off a mutated virus.
Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, also are tweaking their vaccine recipe. The companies are in discussions with U.S. and European regulators about a study to evaluate doses updated to better match variants such as the one first discovered in South Africa.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden plans to distribute millions of face masks to Americans in communities hard-hit by the coronavirus.
It’s part of his effort to ensure equity in the government’s response to the pandemic. Biden is aiming to reach underserved communities and those bearing the brunt of the outbreak. His plan will distribute masks not through the mail, but through Federally Qualified Community Health Centers and the nation’s food bank and food pantry systems.
The White House announced it expects more than 25 million American-made cloth masks in both adult and kid sizes will be distributed. Biden has asked everyone to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his term. He’s also required mask-wearing in federal buildings and on public transportation.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan will resume regular classes five days per week at all schools from March 1 amid a steady decrease in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood made the announcement Thursday on Twitter.
Pakistan closed classrooms in November amid a surge in infections. Schools were later opened in phases, but regular classes had not been allowed.
Authorities said Wednesday that they will allow opening of parks, cinemas and indoor dining and wedding receptions beginning on March 15. Pakistan has reported 12,772 deaths from the coronavirus. Pakistan is currently vaccinating health workers and elderly people using the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.
India announced an expansion of its vaccination program but warned that breaches of coronavirus protocols could worsen an infection surge in many states.
The Japanese government will end a state of emergency in five prefectures west of Tokyo at the end of this month, Kyodo news agency reported.
In the Middle East, hospitals should prepare for a possible second wave and take steps to prevent the disease spreading, health authorities in the government-controlled part of Yemen said.
In Europe, the World Health Organization is working with the European Commission to co-ordinate vaccine donations for other countries on the continent, the head of its European office said.
Finland plans to reintroduce a state of emergency that would allow the Nordic country to close restaurants for a three-week period starting March 8 as it fights the variant first discovered in Britain.
“I know you’re tired. So am I. But we have to be strong and now the situation is more difficult,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a press conference on Thursday. The variant “is more difficult to tackle, the old tools are not enough. Closed borders are not enough.”
The new measures require students over 13 to switch to distance learning and halt their leisure activities. A public meeting ban for more than six people has been introduced and people are urged to avoid private gatherings. People in Finland would still have to work remotely and wear face masks.
Sweden stepped up pandemic restrictions to avoid a third wave, while France’s government ordered a weekend lockdown in the Dunkirk area to arrest an “alarming” rise in cases.
Italy’s government will extend restrictions already in place until after Easter, while Switzerland announced the first phase in a cautious easing from restrictions.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:45 a.m. ET
Former Canadian TV executive convicted of fraud filed false tax returns, hid millions, CRA alleges – CBC.ca
A disgraced Montreal TV executive convicted of fraud is facing allegations from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) that he filed false tax returns and hid assets in offshore accounts in Bermuda and other foreign locations.
In 2016, Ronald Weinberg was sentenced to nine years in jail after being convicted in a highly publicized trial of defrauding investors in Cinar, the children’s entertainment production company that he co-founded in Montreal in the 1980s.
- WATCH | The Fifth Estate: “The Missing Millions” on Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBC-TV or stream on CBC Gem.
Weinberg and his co-conspirators were found guilty in a fraud that diverted more than $120 million from Cinar to the Bahamas in 1999, and later disguised the money trail from investors. The Cinar fraud was connected to a larger scandal involving Quebec-based investment firms Norshield and Mount Real, where investors lost more than $500 million.
Now, The Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada’s Enquête have learned that less than four months after the jury’s verdict in June 2016, the CRA was making new allegations against Weinberg that he “knowingly” or through “gross negligence” concealed millions in foreign assets.
The allegations appear in a Tax Court of Canada case launched by Weinberg against the CRA. According to a November 2018 CRA summary of Weinberg’s outstanding tax penalties, the business executive had “intentionally concealed any information relating to his business activities and his investments abroad.”
The CRA is claiming more than $348,000 in penalties for not disclosing those assets and alleges Weinberg held millions in accounts in Florida. The CRA also states that Weinberg failed to provide an explanation for nearly $4 million transferred for his benefit from his U.S and Bermuda accounts.
“Prior to and during the period in dispute, the appellant had investments in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the United States,” the CRA alleges.
In Tax Court of Canada filings, Weinberg’s lawyer, Jean Groleau, said that his client did not have time to prepare a response, given the ongoing criminal trial, and that the relevant documents were “located outside of Canada.”
Furthermore, Groleau said his client was “not the holder” of the foreign accounts, contrary to the CRA’s allegations, and that Weinberg’s accountant never told him he had to fill out forms declaring those foreign assets.
Groleau has asked the court to dismiss the CRA penalties against his client.
No trial date set in tax dispute
Groleau did not respond to numerous phone calls from The Fifth Estate to discuss the Tax Court case.
In a phone call, his partner, Jacques Plante, said neither he nor Groleau could talk because of client privilege.
Weinberg did not respond to numerous requests for interviews.
The CRA said it does not comment on the specific details of court cases
Court records show the CRA’s tax dispute against Weinberg has dragged on for several years, with no trial date set.
Weinberg was released on day parole in December 2017 after serving one-sixth of his sentence, and received full parole in 2019.
In 2017, his parole conditions required that he pay his taxes and “demonstrate transparency” with his income.
The Parole Board of Canada wrote to Weinberg that “special conditions” of his parole were required given his past “fraudulent” behaviour. The board stated that Weinberg continued to “show indifference towards the investors” of Cinar.
Received money from CERB
Weinberg made headlines last summer after parole board documents showed he applied for, and received money from the COVID-19 emergency relief program (CERB).
His case management team overseeing his prison release recommended he return the money to the Canada Revenue Agency, which he did, according to the documents.
“This event gives a glimpse of a certain capacity for deception and manipulation with your version of events,” the parole board wrote.
At the same time, the parole board decided it would “take no action” against Weinberg.
The Tax Court documents obtained by CBC/Radio-Canada might raise new questions about what the parole board has called Weinberg’s capacity for deception.
The board declined to comment about the CRA allegations that Weinberg was concealing his foreign assets. In a statement to CBC/Radio-Canada, the board said it could not comment on a specific case but added, generally, that “an offender can also be returned to prison at any time if they breach their parole conditions.”
The documents alleged that the CRA learned about Weinberg’s undeclared assets after auditing his 2002 to 2012 tax returns.
The years alleged by the CRA that Weinberg filed false tax returns date past the time he was charged with criminal fraud in May 2011. The agency alleges that he filed false tax returns including the 2011 and 2012 taxation years.
The documents allege that Weinberg had undeclared assets with two banks in Florida. They also allege that he failed to report foreign ownership of accounts in Bermuda that are connected to an offshore service provider in Nassau, the Barrington Bank.
The Barrington Bank had come under scrutiny in the mid 2000s by lawyers and forensic accountants tracing the Cinar money.
The bank was run by Canadian Michael Morris, who had advertised on his website that he was serving only a select group of clients and would “safeguard” assets from creditors.
Montreal lawyer Bill Brock said he wanted to question Morris in his civil lawsuit against Weinberg, but Morris refused to testify.
Brock eventually settled out of court with Weinberg without getting access to the complete Barrington Bank accounts.
The Cinar fraud involved two other co-conspirators, Lino Matteo, the CEO of the investment firm Mount Real, and John Xanthoudakis, former CEO of Norshield Financial Group.
Those men, along with Weinberg, were found guilty of fraud in June 2016. A fourth man, Cinar’s chief financial officer, Hasanain Panju, pleaded guilty earlier for his role in the Cinar fraud.
Lawyer and asset tracer Wes Voorheis was also hired to find the missing Cinar money in 2004.
“I don’t like these guys. Tell the truth, pay your taxes, abide by the law, do what the rest of us do. These guys don’t do that,” Voorheis told The Fifth Estate‘s Mark Kelley.
“When people commit fraud, they almost always have money hidden somewhere in the world.”
Court documents obtained by The Fifth Estate/Enquête, as well as offshore leaks of financial data, show the involvement of numerous other accounting, financial and offshore firms that Weinberg and his co-conspirators used to hide money from investors, creditors and the taxman.
Investors say the entire scandal reveals how average Canadian investors have few protections when up against financial institutions and offshore secrecy.
Janet Watson is one of thousands of investors and pensioners who lost money in what Crown prosecutors Matthew Ferguson and Celine Bilodeau have called one of the largest frauds in Canadian history.
Watson said she believes that whatever money was left in the companies was first paid out to larger institutions and banks.
“If you’re standing in line to get your money back and you’re a big institution like a bank … and then there’s the small investor, who are you going to pay back first?”
Isle of Man companies linked to Canadians
So where did the missing millions go?
The answer to that question might be found in the Isle of Man, a tiny Crown dependency in the Irish Sea.
The offshore tax haven attracts accounting firms from all over the world, offering clients confidentiality in their business dealings.
The Fifth Estate and Enquête discovered four companies set up there named after ancient swords and daggers: Sceax, Spatha, Katar and Shashqua.
They were set up at the exact time the Cinar/Norshield co-conspirators began hiding their money from lawyers and forensic investigators in December 2001. And three of them were closed down exactly when the courts closed down Norshield in 2005.
“The timing is too coincidental to be just a coincidence,” said Voorheis, who reviewed the documentation obtained by CBC/SRC.
“If I had got this information … while we were still on the scene, we would have tried to get to the bottom of this.”
The Shashqua documents reveal that Weinberg’s banker, Morris, became a director of the Isle of Man company when it was set up in December 2001.
Weinberg had previously admitted in an examination for discovery that he had an “indirect beneficial interest” in a company set up by Morris and the Barrington Bank in about 2002. Weinberg claimed not to know the name of the shell company set up for him.
So could Shashqua be the company connected to Barrington Bank that forensic investigators probing the Cinar fraud had been looking for?
Shashqua applied to dissolve as a company in the Isle of Man on Sept. 21, 2016, the exact day that Weinberg’s lawyer stated in Tax Court of Canada documents that his client was transmitted a package from the CRA about his undeclared offshore assets.
Weinberg’s tax lawyer, Jean Groleau, did not respond to an email from journalists about his client using offshore companies on the Isle of Man.
Morris did not respond to a request for an interview.
Voorheis said, on the surface, the connection between Shashqua and Weinberg appears to be “beyond coincidence,” but more work needs to be done to find out if that is the case.
He suggests it is up to the federal government and regulators to pursue this new information because it would be too expensive and time-consuming for the private sector.
Does a Bermuda trust manager have answers?
There is another clue that might reveal where the money went — the name of a Canadian-trained accountant working in Bermuda.
William Maycock shows up in Isle of Man registry documents in connection with three of the four “Sword” companies — Sceax, Katar and Spatha — as the person who controlled the money on behalf of the unnamed beneficial owners.
WATCH: CBC producer confronts Maycock:
The documents show he disbursed the money out of two of the companies at the end of June and beginning of July 2005.
That timeframe is potentially significant because it is when Norshield was taken over by court-appointed liquidators and receivers.
Documents produced at the criminal trial show that Matteo, one of the co-conspirators in the Cinar fraud, was also making efforts at the end of June 2005 to hide investors’ money.
An email exchange from June 28, 2005, shows Matteo’s team trying to hide money offshore “so the liquidators cannot get it.”
Bermuda-based Maycock did not respond to questions in an email about possible connections between the Cinar/Norshield fraud and the “Sword” companies. In 2017, he told the CBC he was not protecting anyone.
Matteo denied any personal knowledge of the Sword companies.
“I suspect you’re onto something, but I can’t — I’m not in a position to confirm or — any further,” he told The Fifth Estate’s Kelley. “If I can get my hands on something more concrete, maybe we’ll have another conversation one day, but right now, no I’m not prepared to speculate.”
WATCH: Former CEO of Mount Real Lino Matteo talks to Mark Kelley:
Luxury resort in Panama
When probed by Cinar lawyers during an examination for discovery in 2007, Weinberg admitted that he travelled several times to Panama but denied having any business dealings there. He said his parents had footed the bills for his trips.
According to a recent article written by his spouse, Annick Bélanger, Weinberg went shopping for real estate in Panama in 2005.
In last summer’s edition of Private Islands, a glossy luxury travel magazine, Bélanger said the couple travelled to Panama 15 years ago because her husband “had a business opportunity” there.
She said they bought a private island in the popular Bocas del Toro archipelago and turned it into a luxury resort catering to the rich and famous, complete with an all-teak nine-room villa on stilts over a coral reef.
“The guest list, which is highly guarded, includes an Oscar-winning producerand director, actors, fashion icons, real estate titans, Wall Street bankers, tech entrepreneurs and philanthropists,” according to the magazine.
Bélanger didn’t respond to CBC/Radio-Canada’s questions about Weinberg’s involvement in the purchase of the property.
Watch full episodes of The Fifth Estate on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.
- If you have tips on this story email Harvey.Cashore@cbc.ca or call 416-526-4704. Follow @HarveyCashore on Twitter
Toronto cancels outdoor events through July including Canada Day celebrations because of coronavirus
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada‘s largest city Toronto is cancelling all large in-person, city-permitted outdoor events through July as the country seeks to stave off a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The city of Toronto announced Wednesday it is extending an existing cancellation of outdoor events, including the annual Pride Parade, which will be a virtual event, and July 1 Canada Day celebrations, which tend to cap off mid-summer festivities.
The announcement does not include professional sporting events, which need permission from provincial and federal governments in addition to Toronto Public Health.
“I want to thank all of these organizations for understanding the need to avoid large in-person gatherings in the coming months and thank you to those who have worked to offer virtual events to keep the spirit of these celebrations,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement.
Many Canadian provinces are gradually reopening businesses and cultural activities after a powerful second wave of the coronavirus forced authorities to issue stay-at-home orders.
(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Grant McCool)
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