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Blackmore seeks publication ban on polygamy details in tax court

Winston Blackmore the religious leader of the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C. shares a laugh with six of his daughters and some of his grandchildren, in this April 21, 2008 photo.

Jonathan Hayward/ The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward/ The Canadian Press

Details of child brides and the polygamist way of life in Bountiful, B.C., could burst into the public domain in unprecedented detail thanks to the tax man.

Winston Blackmore, one of the leaders of the breakaway Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the province's southeast, has been assessed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes and penalties.

He's fighting the assessment in federal tax court.

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But before the proceedings could begin, Mr. Blackmore's lawyer, David Davies, asked the court Wednesday to ban from publication details related to polygamy.

He also asked the court to ensure any evidence heard during the trial can't be used in any future criminal trials.

Mr. Davies said the orders would protect Mr. Blackmore's future rights to a fair trial and the administration of justice.

But B.C. Crown lawyer Craig Jones said the application is really about keeping evidence of criminality, specifically child marriage, out of the public domain and subsequent courts.

"It's no secret he's a polygamist," said Mr. Jones of Mr. Blackmore.

Mr. Jones said that under cross-examination, Mr. Blackmore will have to talk about marriages to 12- and 13-year-olds.

"And that's going to get someone's attention."

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Mr. Jones said authorities in Canada, Utah and Texas are conducting ongoing investigations into the sect's activities.

"That's what this is about," Mr. Jones said.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge is considering Canada's 121-year-old ban on polygamy.

This past January, the RCMP announced a renewed criminal investigation focusing on Bountiful after the B.C. Supreme Court heard evidence that teenaged girls were taken across the Canada-U.S. border to be married.

Church records seized in the United States outline the marriage of more than two dozen girls who were as young as 12.

Meantime, Mr. Blackmore's legal battle with tax authorities has been taking place since the 2000 tax year. As the dispute has worn on, Mr. Blackmore has amassed negligence penalties alone amounting to almost $150,000.

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Crown documents filed in response to Mr. Blackmore's appeal indicate Mr. Blackmore under-reported $1.85-million in income and employee and shareholder benefits received by J.R. Blackmore and Sons, Ltd.

Mr. Blackmore is the majority owner of the company.

In the documents, the Crown argues Mr. Blackmore's reported earnings were "insufficient to financially support him, his purported polygamous 'wives' and the many children issued from those relationships."

The Crown alleges credit card expenses, tuition for a son, rents, car insurance and hockey tickets, among other basic living expenses, were paid for by the company.

The documents also say the company paid a $41,000 salary to one of Mr. Blackmore's wives in 2003 when she didn't do any work for the company.

"The amounts expended by the company in respect of the personal and living expenses of its shareholders and their extended families was part of a purposeful and deliberate plan to reduce taxes at the corporate level and to benefit the shareholders' extended families," the Crown says in its court response to Mr. Blackmore.

Mr. Blackmore's lawyers argue the company was a business agent of a Bountiful congregation.

Justice Campbell Miller of the Tax Court of Canada made no ruling on the application Wednesday.

He said while he expects to rule on the publication ban Friday, he may need more time to consider Mr. Blackmore's application to ensure anything heard in tax court can't be used against him in a criminal case.

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