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Blog: 'The Wire' meets the CRA

Anti-Organized Crime Unit Facing a Cut after Cracking Major Case

by Gwalgen Geordie Dent

Blog: 'The Wire' meets the CRA

Det. James 'Jimmy' McNulty: "What'd you do to piss 'em off?"
Det. Lester Freamon: "Police work."

Stop me if you've heard this one before:

A crack investigation unit is delving into organized crime.  However ideological, power-driven political budget decisions render their unit expendable.  Austerity in a government budget scrap the whole investigative team. Staff are reassigned.  And known people responsible for major organized crime (and 22 bodies!) are let off the hook.

Yes, (Spoiler Alert) season 5 of the wire was the end of a masterpiece...and it's sadly playing out very similarly at the Canada Revenue Agency recently.

You may have heard of the CRA.  They're the people that audit you when you do your taxes...well, unless apparently you're rich.  

Yes, the CRA hasn't been looking very good recently; they're not going after tax cheats in offshore areas while the Conservative government has been fighting tax secrecy for some rich friends.  

But things have gotten even worse now  with allegations uncovered by the CBC that they gave a massive cheque to a mafia boss who owed them $1.5 Million at the time.

Speaking to the CBC, a CRA spokesperson said: "It would be highly irresponsible to suggest that there was anything inappropriate, illicit or nefarious in CRA’s dealings with this specific taxpayer. Any suggestion that CRA did not devote the proper resources or attention to this situation is unequivocally false."

However, a Jean-Pierre Paquette, a veteran of 35 years with the CRA's Anti-Organized-Crime Unit, said that it was, shall we say, interesting, that a cheque of that size, to a mafia boss, who owed that much made it through internal controls without help.

And this is where things go deep.

You see, the CRA's Anti-Organized-Crime Unit started uncovering a lot more than just this one cheque, because when you start to follow the money,  you don't know where the fuck it's gonna take you.

Apparently people in the Anti-Organized-Crime Unit like Paquette and Robert Martin (both recently retired) were reporting possible corruption and collusion between CRA staff, construction companies in Montreal and organized crime to superiors.

But when he reported it, Paquette was told "we don't really have the time to deal with that information" until he reported it to a senior manager.  A years-long RCMP case was started that resulted in more than 100 charges, 9 CRA firings and 6 charges currently laid.  

Martin had a similar lack of interest in his allegations and both started wondering if there was possible collusion at the CRA Montreal Tax office.  Many staff there were apparently leaving the office and then going to work as consultants for people in organized crime.  According to Paquette in the CBC: "Bosses, team leaders, tax-office heads… go on to become agents for people involved in organized crime."

Yup, thanks to these diligent auditors it seems like all the loose ends have been wrapped up; it's a 'new day' for the Anti-Organized-Crime Unit.

Oops!  Remember the problem with budget cuts in the Wire?

Well, it seems that the unit responsible for cracking this case wide open, the unit that has helped put away a lot of the Quebec Mafia, and that have uncovered another network of tens of millions of dollars in fraud...yes, this unit is being shut down due to federal budget cuts.

These are budget cuts that are being driven completely by Conservative ideological motivations at a time when Canada has one of the best credit ratings in the world.

The CRA has stated that there hasn't been a cut, but that the staffing has just been "reassigned".

But Martin's not buying it.  "It's so frustrating to know that those types of files will practically never get audited.  Going after a hairdresser who fails to declare $2,000 a year when the other guy is laundering seven or eight million a year… and they're not going after that, I find that unbelievable," he said to the CBC.

Hmmm.  Why would a government that's apparently promising to boost tax revenues cut a department specifcally designed to go after both tax cheats and organized crime?

Looks like all the pieces still matter.

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