Nine federal bureaucrats feasted on rack of lamb, cheesecake, wine and cognac as they watched a hockey game in a luxury box at the Montreal Bell Centre in late 2005.
However, according to allegations contained in recently released court documents, the Canada Revenue Agency officials were enjoying a night out at the expense of a businessman who was involved in a multimillion-dollar tax-evasion scheme.
The proximity between CRA officials and businessman Francesco Bruno has shaken the tax-collection agency and led to a three-year-long RCMP investigation.
According to allegations contained in a series of search warrants, the Mounties have uncovered a number of interactions between Mr. Bruno and some of the auditors, including free trips, renovations and a bank account in the Bahamas containing more than $800,000. In addition, the search warrants allege that confidential tax documents were found in Mr. Bruno’s safe and in the hands of his accountant, suggesting CRA insiders stopped audits by removing allegations of wrongdoing from their internal files.
The court documents show that five of the federal employees at the hockey game were later suspended or fired following internal investigations into their handling of confidential records. Two others retired, while two others are still listed as federal employees.
No criminal charges have been laid, and none of the allegations against CRA officials have been proven in court. The search warrants do not indicate which CRA officials are under investigation, and there is no information suggesting that outsiders at the event are under investigation or suspected of wrongdoing.
According to the RCMP search warrants, the following photographs were taken at the hockey game by then-CRA team leader Adriano Furgiuele.
How the probe unfolded, according to search warrants and other court documents
Sept. 10, 2004 to Feb. 18, 2005: CRA auditor Nicola Iammarrone studies and approves B.T. Céramique’s tax filings for 2002 and 2003.
Dec. 10, 2005: Nine CRA officials, including Mr. Iammarrone, attend a hockey game in Montreal with B.T. Céramique president Francesco Bruno, in a luxury box allegedly paid for by the company. Montreal loses 5-3 to the Anaheim Ducks.
April 19, 2007: Using information obtained by a police probe into the Mafia, the CRA’s organized-crime unit launches an audit that identifies $3-million in unreported income at B.T. Céramique in 2004 and 2005.
April 2, 2008: CRA launches a full investigation into B.T. Céramique, dubbed Operation Legaux, to look into allegations the firm used shell companies to avoid paying taxes.
May 6, 2008: CRA investigators conduct a series of raids, including a search at Mr. Bruno’s home. A CRA investigator notices a picture inside the home of two CRA auditors, Adriano Furgiuele and Antonio Girardi.
Sept. 12, 2008: The CRA calls in the RCMP to investigate employees at its Montreal Tax Services Office.
Dec. 7, 2010: Two construction firms owned by industry magnate Antonio Accurso plead guilty to $4-million in tax evasion in connection to fake invoices to shell companies set up by Mr. Bruno.
Feb. 8, 2011: Mr. Bruno and B.T. Céramique plead guilty to tax evasion and pay a $1.3-million fine.