Tax scheme: colossal French fortunes laundered in Montreal
Billions of dollars belonging to wealthy French families have been stashed away in Quebec from French tax authorities as part of a massive money laundering scheme, a judge has ruled Superior Court.
Judge Bernard Synnott sent back to back two groups who were arguing over the management of trusts (or fificiés in French) linked to the Montreal management firm Blue Bridge, in a particularly scathing judgment rendered on Thursday.
“Has Canada become a tax haven? At least that's what the actors in this case, including the parties, think of it,” said Judge Synnott.
Our Bureau of Investigation was the first media in the world to lift the veil on the mysterious activities of the Blue Bridge wealth management firm in downtown Montreal, in a two-page report published at the end of 2019.
Screenshot of the website of Blue Bridge, a firm Montrealer managing trusts, or trusts in English, of which wealthy French people are beneficiaries.
Our Bureau of Investigation then revealed that billions of dollars held in trusts in Bermuda and linked to French fortunes had taken their way to Quebec after the conclusion of an information exchange agreement between France and Bermuda.
“According to the “wishes” of certain beneficiaries, Blue Bridge is laundering millions of dollars belonging to certain trusts, through donations made to foundations in the name of Blue Bridge. This makes it possible to hide the identity of the real donor (the trust), and ultimately to hide the identity of the people behind the gift (the beneficiaries)”, mentions Judge Synnott in his decision.
The judge is not kind either to the boss of Blue Bridge, Alain Roch, a financier with a “shaky banking career” until the beginning of the 2000s, or to the other parties who were suing him for the control of trusts.
Alain Roch, in particular, has no credibility, according to the judge.
Alain E. Roch, a former Swiss banker based in Quebec who runs the heritage and trust company Blue Bridge. Large French fortunes would have placed their money with Blue Bridge by bringing it from Bermuda, a tax haven.
Among these other parties, Me Delphine Doron, a lawyer registered with the Quebec Bar, and the firm McGill Avocats in Montreal.
According to him, most of the parties to the case have no other interest than to take advantage of the windfall offered by the billions of dollars held in trusts, according to the judge.
Thursday's decision also lifts the veil on the surprising practices employed by lawyers close to billionaires.
“To 'protect' the identity of trust beneficiaries and their personal information, [a] law firm must periodically destroy and 'dispose' of all of its computers. They contain too much information. The replacement of all the devices makes it possible to leave no trace of the slightest clue allowing anyone – including the tax authorities – to identify the people behind the trusts or even to identify the existence of a trust, ”underlines the judge.
“We talk to each other and write to each other in codes, like the old lady, the cousins, the painter, our friend, the fishermen, the Jus, the Jibars, the Pauls, SC , the Fic, Fip, Dic”, said the judge.
Written writing should be avoided and rather than email, the use of fax is recommended.
According to Judge Synnott, there is no doubt that the only reason Quebec and Canada have been chosen to house billions of French fortunes is to hide from the tax authorities.
“ Neither of these families has any connection with Canada, justifying the constitution of hundreds of trusts in the country, except to deprive the French state of its right to full disclosure of their billion. In the absence of this objective of concealing assets, the existing smokescreen would precisely be non-existent since it is useless, given the sole purpose of the exercise, which is to hide the money from the French tax authorities as well as the names of the beneficiaries and settlors of trusts”, he believes.
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