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
Line 5 pipeline between U.S. and Canada could cause 'devastating damage' to Great Lakes, say environmentalists – CBC.ca
An aging pipeline that carries oil along the bottom of the ecologically sensitive and turbulent Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, is in such a state of disrepair it could burst at any moment and cause catastrophic damage to the Great Lakes, environmentalists warn.
Line 5, a 1,000-kilometre-long pipeline owned by Calgary-based Enbridge, carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids a day from Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ont., where it is shipped to other refineries in Ontario and Quebec.
It’s at the centre of a politically charged dispute between Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who’s ordered what she calls the “ticking time bomb” to be shut down, and Canadian officials, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who’ve sided with Enbridge in insisting it’s safe to keep running.
“Over the past year, I have both written and spoken to the Governor to express my disappointment and stress the importance of Line 5 in ensuring economic, environmental and energy security to the entire Great Lakes Region,” Ford said in a statement to CBC News.
“Our government believes pipelines are a safe way to transport essential fuels across the Great Lakes, operating in accordance with the highest pipeline safety standards.”
Enbridge says Line 5 is safe and saves the hassle of transporting huge amounts of fuel by truck or train.
But Michelle Woodhouse, water program manager at Toronto-based Environmental Defence, said it’s time to put politics aside and cut through Enbridge’s “manufactured narrative.” She says the danger the pipeline poses to the Great Lakes is too risky to take “a gamble.”
Line 5 has leaked oil before
Line 5 was designed in 1953 to have a lifespan of 50 years, or until 2003. Eighteen years later, it’s still running, and has had its fair share of problems, said Woodhouse.
“This is a very old, deteriorating, dangerous pipeline that has already leaked significant amounts of oil into the surrounding lands and water that it crosses through,” she said.
Since 1953, Line 5 has leaked 29 times, spilling 4.5 million litres of oil into the environment, according to media reports.
The pipeline has also repeatedly violated safety standards, said the State of Michigan’s court filings against Enbridge in 2020. Recently, a ship’s anchor struck and damaged the pipeline in 2018 and contractors mistakenly damaged its supports in 2019, which wasn’t discovered for a year, Michigan’s complaint said.
A spill would cause “devastating damage” to Lake Huron and Lake Michigan’s shorelines, compromising drinking water, fisheries, businesses and homes, said Woodhouse.
Dianne Saxe, the former environmental commissioner of Ontario and now deputy leader of the Ontario Green Party, said if Line 5 did leak in the Straits of Mackinac, it would create “an enormous cloud of pollution” that would disrupt intricate fish ecosystems and also flow downstream to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
“It’s running under one of the most dangerous places in the Great Lakes, where there is highly turbulent waters,” Saxe said.
A University of Michigan study from 2014 corroborates this. Researchers found strong currents in the straits, which switch directions every few days, would contaminate shorelines up to 80 kilometres away within a few days.
Enbridge says pipeline in good condition
Enbridge spokesperson Tracy Larsson said every year, the company inspects Line 5’s twin pipes that cross the Straits of Mackinac, which are made of “thick seamless steel” and have been shown to be in good condition. She also said that Line 5’s lifespan is determined by inspections and maintenance, not when it was built.
Enbridge is also spending $500 million Cdn to build a tunnel through the straits to cover and protect Line 5.
“Ultimately, the Great Lakes Tunnel is the common sense solution to meeting Michigan’s energy needs while protecting the Great Lakes, our communities and waterways,” Larsson said.
However, the upgrade likely won’t be done for years, as President Joe Biden’s administration recently ordered a rigorous environmental review.
Natural Resources Canada told CBC News the alternative to Line 5 would be shipping fuel on 800 rail cars and 2,000 trucks a day across Canada, plus 15,000 trucks in the U.S.
“These options are less safe, more polluting, and more expensive,” NRC said in a statement.
Woodhouse called these figures “completely overblown” and said there’s capacity within Canada’s existing transportation system to transport the oil and natural gas to meet the region’s energy needs.
She said tankers and trucks should only be a temporary solution as Canada moves away from fossil fuels, as it has pledged to do in its climate commitments.
“We know about where things are headed with climate change and global warming,” Woodhouse said. “We have to get things done ASAP. And so the fact that these corporations and their allies are doing things like signing deals that basically send a signal that we don’t care, it’s very unsettling.”
‘There is no co-operation’
Whitmer recently revoked the 1953 easement that had allowed Enbridge to run Line 5 through Michigan and gave the company a May 12 deadline to stop operations, although it has not been enforced. The two parties remain locked in a court-ordered mediation process that will wrap up in August, although it’s unclear when the dispute will be resolved.
Enbridge said in a news release earlier this year it has no intentions of shutting down Line 5, and that Whitmer’s actions are unlawful and ignore science and evidence.
Whitmer’s administration maintains Michigan can’t trust Enbridge after another of its pipelines in the state ruptured in 2010, “causing one of the worst inland oil spills in U.S. history,” press secretary Bobby Leddy said in a statement.
“If Enbridge continues to operate the pipeline beyond the deadline, the state will seek to disgorge the company of its profits earned while unlawfully trespassing on state land,” Leddy said.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said if Line 5 is shut down, his city would lose up to 5,000 well-paying jobs. He said the action would also significantly impact communities across Ontario and Quebec that use the oil and natural gas to manufacture more than 600 products.
He said every time he’s attempted to raise his concerns with Whitmer, she hasn’t responded.
“The governor of Michigan has done incredible damage to the relationship between Ontario and Michigan,” Bradley said. “And that’s what’s disturbing. There is no co-operation when there should be.”
Cruising through Canada with a criminal record? – Canada Immigration News
Attention all cruisers! Canada’s transport minister, Omar Alghabra recently stated that the country will soon open up to travellers by boat.
As of November 1, 2021, cruise ships and their passengers can enter Canada, if they comply with the Canadian government’s public health guidelines.
Canada, on both the West and East coasts, is a convenient and popular cruise stop. Boats to or from Alaska commonly dock in Vancouver or Victoria, while east coast ships visit the ports of Montreal or Halifax. Canada welcomes and values the cruise industry. The re-opening news should attract many tourists to come explore what the country has to offer.
By lifting the restrictions in November, the government aims to give the country’s tourism industry a boost leading up to the 2022 cruise season. The Canadian government itself notes that the cruise ship industry contributes $4 billion annually to the Canadian economy and supports approximately 30,000 jobs.
If you are one of the many tourists planning on entering Canada with criminal history, it is important to know that you can be denied entry at the border.
Canada has strict rules for people with criminal records. They are designed to keep the country and its people safe. Canada will take the foreign criminal offence and translate it into Canadian law. Factors such as what the offence is, how long ago the sentence was completed, and how many convictions a person has, all factor in. Since late 2018, a driving under the influence conviction means that a person is inadmissible to Canada for serious criminality. In theory, such a person is banned from Canada forever. However, there are ways to overcome inadmissibility.
Denial can take place at any point. It can occur at an airport for example, if you are flying from another country to Canada to get on a cruise leaving from Vancouver. It can also occur at your port outside of Canada. This is because Canada receives the passenger lists before the ship leaves for Canada. Lastly, it can take place at a port in Canada even if you plan on visiting for only a few hours.
How do I go on a Cruise with a criminal record?
The Canadian government offers short and long-term solutions to tourists who have a criminal record. Generally, there are three paths to resolving inadmissibility:
Temporary Resident Permit (TRP): This document grants temporary access to Canada for someone who is otherwise criminally inadmissible. If the traveler is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, they can apply for a TRP at a Canadian consulate or border. A TRP might be valid for a single day, or for up to three years. It may be good for only a single entry to Canada, or it may allow multiple entries. These elements will depend on the purpose of the visit to Canada. Reviewing officers use discretion when determining how long a TRP is valid for. The purpose for entering Canada is usually the most important factor. Cruise travellers are often suggested to apply for criminal rehabilitation.
Criminal rehabilitation: Criminal rehabilitation gives permanent admissibility to someone who was formerly inadmissible. Being eligible for criminal rehabilitation depends on several factors. These include:
- the crime committed,
- the sentence, and;
- how much time has passed since sentence completion.
If you have been convicted of a crime or crimes in a foreign country, and more than five years have passed since you finished your sentence, you are likely eligible to apply for Canadian criminal rehabilitation. Criminal rehabilitation is a one-time solution that, unlike a TRP, never requires renewal.
Applying for a TRP can often be risky when attempting to enter for leisure purposes. This is because Canadian immigration officers may conclude that the importance of someone who has a criminal record stopping in Canada for a cruise does not outweigh the risks of allowing that person into the country.
Legal Opinion Letter: Another remedy to a potential criminal inadmissibility problem is a legal opinion letter. This is a document that a Canadian immigration lawyer prepares. The letter discusses a past charge or conviction, as well as the lawyer’s legal conclusions. The lawyer will identify the relevant Canadian law and explain why the person should be deemed admissible to Canada. A legal opinion letter can also be beneficial to those in a pre-sentencing situation before making a final plea. It can explain the different consequences of various pleas on the person’s ability to enter Canada.
Knowing Canada’s rules about tourists with criminal records is important. It can help individuals who have records understand what obstacles they may help, as well as what solutions are available.
© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Discover your Canadian immigration options at CanadaVisa.com.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world Tuesday – CBC.ca
Chinese authorities have announced mass coronavirus testing in Wuhan as an unusually wide series of COVID-19 outbreaks reached the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019.
The provincial capital of 11 million people in central China is the latest city to undergo city-wide testing. Three cases were confirmed in Wuhan on Monday, its first non-imported cases in more than a year.
China has largely curbed COVID-19 at home after the initial outbreak that devastated Wuhan and spread globally. Since then, authorities have tamped down and controlled the disease whenever it pops up with quick lockdowns and mass testing.
The current outbreaks are still in the hundreds of cases in total but have spread much more widely than previous ones. Many of the cases have been identified as the highly contagious delta variant.
The National Health Commission said Tuesday that 90 new cases had been confirmed the previous day.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 198.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.2 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan will focus on hospitalizing patients who are seriously ill with COVID-19 and those at risk of becoming so while others isolate at home amid worries about a strained medical system as cases surge in Olympics host city Tokyo.
Pakistan’s top health official says his country for the first time has administered one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine across the country in the past 24 hours. The latest development comes days after Pakistan imposed a lockdown in the southern port city of Karachi and in other high-risk areas.
In the Americas, the U.S. states of Florida and Louisiana were at or near their highest hospitalization numbers of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, a trend driven by the still-spreading delta variant.
Nearly three out of four Americans above the age of 18 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disesae Control.
In Africa, Morocco will lengthen its night curfew as it tightens restrictions to counter a surge in infections.
In the Middle East, Iran on Monday reported 37,189 new cases of COVID-19 — a single-day high, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The country, which has been hit hard by several waves of the novel coronavirus, also saw 411 additional deaths.
In Europe, France’s overseas territory of Guadeloupe will to go into a new lockdown for at least three weeks.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted to get the travel industry moving again with a simple user-friendly system to allow for trips abroad without importing new virus variants.
–From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:55 a.m. ET
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