Ottawa threatens to use courts to force CBC to hand over tax haven list

HALIFAX — The Canadian Press

Canada's National Revenue Minister Gail Shea speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 29, 2012. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

Ottawa will use the courts to try and get the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to hand over leaked data naming people who have allegedly used offshore tax havens, National Revenue Minister Gail Shea said Tuesday.

Shea said she has asked the CBC for the information but it has refused, so now the department will pursue legal means in a bid to get the list.

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“We will pursue any legal options that we do have to obtain the list and we are working with the United States and our other international partners to do so,” she said in an interview.

Shea said tax evasion is illegal and the media has an obligation to provide the department with any information about suspected illegal activity, which she said the CBC’s stories suggest is a possibility.

Asked what specific laws apply, Shea said that will be left to the department’s legal experts.

The CBC is the sole Canadian member of the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which has refused to give Ottawa a list that it says includes 450 Canadians.

CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said the public broadcaster cannot divulge its sources or the data, and it will defend itself in court if necessary.

“Like the other members of the ICIJ, our responsibility is to tell the story,” he said in an interview.

“As a journalistic organization and as a matter of journalistic principle, CBC doesn’t reveal sources nor any related background information.”

Detailed financial information of several thousand individuals from around the world was leaked to the consortium, which shared it with other media outlets.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has promised to crack down on tax cheats. His recent budget included a program to stop international tax evasion by offering financial rewards for tips to the Canada Revenue Agency if an investigation bears fruit.

Flaherty said the goal is to bring in hundreds of millions of new tax dollars.

Canadians are already required by law to report any offshore holdings worth more than $100,000 to the Canada Revenue Agency.

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