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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Panama Papers highlight that wealthy people have been “very effective at avoiding paying their fair of taxes.”

ALICE CHICHE/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he does not have any money socked away in offshore tax havens, unlike other world leaders who were exposed in the so-called Panama Paper leaks.

"No, no we do not," Mr. Trudeau told reporters at an event in Sudbury when asked if he and his family have investments in offshore accounts. "I have entirely and completely been transparent about mine and my family's finances. That is something I learned early on that Canadians expect from their leaders."

Mr. Trudeau comes from a wealthy family dating back to his grandfather, Charles-Émile Trudeau, who owned real estate, an amusement park and a string of gas stations in Montreal in the early 20th century. Pierre Trudeau inherited some of his father's money and he later divided it among his children by setting up trust funds.

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The Prime Minister's inheritance is reported to be about $1.2-million. Mr. Trudeau and his younger brother, Alexandre (Sacha), also inherited their father's art-deco home in Montreal and a cottage in the Laurentian Mountains. As Prime Minister he earns $334,800 annually and lives for free in a house on the grounds of Rideau Hall, as well as having access to a private lakeside cottage in the Gatineau Hills.

Leaks of the Panama Papers revealed that dozens of world leaders and their families hold offshore accounts, including members of China's Politburo and Iceland's Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson who stepped down as prime minister earlier this week.

British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted Thursday his family had profited from an offshore account set up by his late father.

"Obviously the Panama Papers are highlighting some really big concerns that people around the world have about the fact extremely wealthy people have been very effective at avoiding paying their fair of taxes," Mr. Trudeau said. 'That's why in [the Liberal 2016] budget, even before the Panama Papers came out, we allocated an extra $440-million to the Canada Revenue Agency to ensure they are empowered to go after tax avoidance and tax evasion."

Russian President Vladimir Putin went on Russian television Thursday to deny "any element of corruption" over the leak of offshore companies owned by close associates. The leaked data suggest the companies may have been money laundering. "They've found a few of my acquaintances and friends … and scraped up something from there and stuck it together," Mr. Putin said.

Other leaders implicated in the leaked documents include Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

The Trudeau government has ordered the Canada Revenue Agency to seek copies of the Panama Papers to determine if any Canadians were using tax havens to avoid paying taxes.

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The CRA said it "continues to pursue audits related to offshore tax evasion including some Canadian clients associated with law firm Mossack Fonseca," based in Panama, which set up the the accounts whose details were leaked to the media.

The agency said it is also actively pursuing the co-operation of its tax treaty partners and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to obtain all of the leaked records that pertain to Canadian residents.

Since 2015, the CRA said it has collected data on international fund transfers, and is actively identifying high-risk taxpayers, high-risk jurisdictions and high-risk intermediaries, the agency added. As of January, the CRA had collected information on all international fund transfers of more than $10,000, including those in Panama.

The CRA said it is allowed to pay individuals who confidentially provide specific information about major international tax non-compliance.

"If the CRA collects more than $100,000 in federal taxes resulting from this information, the person who provided it could be awarded between 5 per cent and 15 per cent of the amount collected. Since the program started in January, 2014, it has received calls from over 800 individuals and is reviewing over 120 cases," the agency said.

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