A former official of the Canada Revenue Agency has become an RCMP informant, helping the Mounties go after an alleged network of corruption and fraud that has engulfed the tax-collection agency, sources say.
The RCMP has used the informant to collect information on officials at the CRA who have been accused of corruption and business people who are alleged to have offered them bribes to reduce their tax bills. The informant has worn a hidden microphone at times to obtain confessions from former colleagues and people alleged to have made kickbacks to CRA officials.
The identity of the informant and the terms of the deal with the RCMP have not been made public. Usually, informants confess to a role in infractions before obtaining an agreement to co-operate with the RCMP, which could include financial support or a form of immunity.
The arrangement shows the extent to which the Mounties have gone in their efforts to investigate allegations of corruption at the CRA, a federal agency that collects personal data on Canadians and is expected to have high ethical standards.
Sources said the informant's work paid off on Thursday, when the RCMP laid 13 fraud and corruption-related charges against businessman Reza Tehrani, and five similar charges against his spouse, Liora Suissa.
"Using various schemes, the accused could have evaded approximately $6-million in income tax," the RCMP said in a news release.
Police say Mr. Tehrani sought the complicity of CRA employees to "reduce his tax burden and that of his companies, the Institut Technique Aviron and L.R. Print Sol." Mr. Tehrani is also alleged to have sought to obtain tax credits for his personal benefit from a research and development program within CRA.
Mr. Tehrani is a controversial businessman in Montreal who went through a bizarre and unsolved kidnapping incident in 2010. He said at the time that the kidnappers were seeking a ransom because of his lavish lifestyle.
"The way they were talking, it was a talk that I hear every day: 'Oh, you are so rich. You are driving a Bentley. You are driving a Ferrari. You don't share your wealth,'" Mr. Tehrani told the CBC at the time.
Court records show that Mr. Tehrani has been involved in a number of legal actions over the years against former business partners, the federal government and lenders. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
As part of the investigation that was launched in 2008, the RCMP has laid charges of fraud, extortion and bribery against five former CRA officials and four people in the private sector, including construction-industry magnate Antonio Accurso. In a statement, the RCMP said the investigation into CRA corruption is far from over.
"Several components of the investigation are still ongoing and additional arrests and charges are expected," the RCMP said.
In recent search warrants, the RCMP has alleged that CRA officials helped or offered to help firms in Quebec's construction and restaurant industries to evade taxes.
The RCMP has also alleged in search warrants that CRA officials received gifts or compensation from a construction firm, including free home renovations, trips to Las Vegas and the Bahamas, and an upscale evening at a Montreal Canadiens home game.
So far, the CRA has fired at least seven auditors and team leaders as a result of its own internal investigation.