US-designated criminal organizations receiving tax refunds under secretive BC Liberal program

By Amy Chen

Firms whose assets were seized by the US after being designated a “significant transnational criminal organization” is benefiting from the secretive provincial tax refund program that was greatly expanded by Christy Clark’s government in 2014.

PacNet and its subsidiary Chexx Inc, both based in Vancouver, are core members of AdvantageBC, which entitled them to a tax refund of up to 100 per cent of their corporate income taxes at a cost of $140 million to the province[1]

US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated the the corporations as a significant transnational criminal organization and seized their bank accounts last fall on the grounds that the companies have a lengthy history of money laundering by knowingly processing payments on behalf of a wide range of mail fraud schemes that target victims in the United States and throughout the world[2]

“PacNet has knowingly facilitated the fraudulent activities of its customers for many years, and today’s designations are aimed at shielding Americans and the nation’s financial system from the large-scale, illicit money flows that are generated by these scams against vulnerable individuals,” John E. Smith, OFAC Acting Director said. “Treasury will continue to use its authorities to respond to the evolving nature of transnational organized crime.”

PacNet, with operations in Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, and subsidiaries or affiliates in 15 other countries, is accused of knowingly processing payments relating to fraudulent solicitation schemes, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars to US consumers.

BC Liberals received $5.8 million worth of donations from members of AdvantageBC, which is headed by Christy Clark’s former campaign chair, who is a former BC finance minister responsible for expanding the program’s tax incentives.

While the tax deductions are offered by the Ministry of Finance under International Business Activity Program, the International Business Activity Act passed under former BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campell requires corporations to first join the not-for-profit AdvantageBC to apply for the deductions.

BC NDP candidate David Eby is calling for the Auditor-General to investigate the scheme, which, according the New York Times investigation that first spotlighted the issue, has created as few as 122 jobs.

“Every day, it’s getting harder and more expensive to live in BC, and the only people getting ahead are Christy Clark and her rich friends,” said Eby. “British Columbians deserve to know how much of their hard-earned tax dollars Christy Clark has secretly handed to rich donors.”

Eby noted that the BC Liberals have failed to provide any credible evidence that the program creates jobs, and have refused to reveal which companies have received tax breaks and for how much.

He promised that a BC NDP government will immediately refer this program to the Auditor-General for investigation.

“For years, Christy Clark has been hiking Hydro, MSP and ICBC rates on hardworking British Columbians to pay for huge giveaways to the top 2% and profitable corporate donors,” Eby, the incumbent for Vancouver-Point Grey who famously defeated Premier Clark at the last election, said. “As Premier, John Horgan will cancel shady corporate tax giveaways and invest those funds in cutting costs for British Columbians and reversing cuts to services like education and healthcare.”

But BC Liberals continued to defend the program.

“We want to re-establish British Columbia as a location for head offices around the world, and I think reaching out to Asia and getting those head offices here is a good way to do that,” Premier Clark told reporters.

While the BC Liberal government refuses to release full list of corporations benefiting from, AdvantageBC CEO confirmed that most of the core members of benefit from the program.

Meanwhile, a court ruling[3] revealed that TD Bank, which has donated $114,650, claimed a $2.8 million tax refund in 2012 through the program.

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