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Tar sands player CNOOC linked to tax havens

Remember when the Conservative government okayed CNOOC Ltd.'s takeover of the Calgary-based energy producer Nexen Inc., despite lots of red flags raised by the Opposition?

Well, the state-owned Chinese corporation is back in the news. New leaks of secret financial data suggest CNOOC is a big fan of tax havens.

Along with China's other big oil companies, Petro China and Sinopec, CNOOC runs offshore subsidiaries registered in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious tax haven.

The leaks list over 22,000 names of individuals and companies, many linked to top Chinese political and business elites. It is estimated that up to $4 trillion has left China untraced since 2000.

"The chief executive of CNOOC, Yang Hua, was similarly listed as the only director and shareholder of a BVI entity called Garland International Trading Company Limited. His colleague, Fang Zhi, vice-president of CNOOC International, was the director and shareholder of Xin Yue Lianping Company Limited and Xin Yue (BVI) Company Limited," the Guardian explains. 

"None of the three companies, nor the executives, responded to repeated requests for comment from ICIJ reporters in China and overseas." (The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Guardian also report that their websites have been blocked by Chinese censors.)

The leaks list at least 10 CNOOC subsidiaries operating in the British Virgin Islands.

They include: CNOOC INTERNATIONAL LTD.; CNOOC (BVI) Limited;  CNOOC Myanmar Ltd.; CNOOC Myanmar Holding Ltd.; CNOOC Kazakhstan Limited;  CNOOC North Caspian Sea Limited; CNOOC Africa LTD.; CNOOC AFRICA HOLDING LTD.; CNOOC Muturi Holding Ltd.; and CNOOC Wiriagar Holding Ltd.

Wait, so you’re telling me there’s oil in the British Virgin Islands? You might find tanning oil, but that’s about it

In the last few years, it’s become common practice for multinationals to set up elaborate networks of offshore subsidiaries in dozens of countries. The multinationals then sell their own assets back and forth between dummy companies they control to shift where profits are reported and lower their taxes.

The international Tax Justice Network estimates that half of global trade flows through tax havens and between $21 and $32 trillion is currently being hoarded in offshore bank accounts.

Canadians for Tax Fairness, a member of the Tax Justice Network, says that Canadian money in tax havens is at an all-time high. Using Statistics Canada data, the group says $170 billion has been moved into the top-5 tax havens alone and estimates (conservatively) that Canada could be losing at least $7.8 billion per year.

For example, the Canada Revenue Agency has accused Saskatchewan uranium miner Cameco of dodging nearly a billion dollars in taxes — at least $300 million to the province of Saskatchewan alone — by digging up uranium in Saskatchewan and turning around and selling it to a dummy corporation in Zug, Switzerland.

Knowing the scale of the problem, you'd think the CRA would be boosting — not cutting —  its capacity to crack down on tax havens. But cutting is exactly what the Conservative government is doing.

By 2017-18, 3,100 auditor positions will be eliminated as part of a $313 million cut to CRA's budget, even as the agency "acknowledges difficulty in tracking and collecting billions of dollars in unreported income from domestic and international tax evasion."

Photo: premierofalberta. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence. 


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Justin Bieber

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Cannibal rats

A ghost ship filled with disease-infested rats feeding off each other is heading to Britain, thanks to Canada. The MV Lyubov Orlova was seized by Transport Canada back in 2010 after its owners got into financial trouble. Last year, while towing the ship from Newfoundland to the Dominican Republic to sell it for scraps, the tow line snapped. Transport Canada decided against pursuing the ship, and it's been adrift at sea ever since.

Ted Cruz

The darling of the Tea Party, pegged as the 2016 presidential candidate of choice of the right-wing of the Republican Party, has a problem. The U.S. senator from Texas was born in Calgary, so Cruz plans to renounce his Canadian citizenship. Meanwhile, he's doing plenty of damage in his adopted country.


Canada is finally getting out of the asbestos exporting business after carrying the mantel of international pariah for decades. The Canadian government spent years derailing efforts to put limits on exporting the known carcinogen to developing countries by blocking the labelling of chrysotile asbestos, mined in Quebec, as hazardous under the United Nation's Rotterdam Convention. People in India and elsewhere, where the carcinogen ended up in products, will be feeling the health effects for generations.

Rob Ford

The embattled crack-smoking mayor is still standing his ground in Toronto. But he's also Canada's greatest export when it comes to fodder for late-night comedy jokes in the United States. Host Jimmy Kimmel has even given him the meme treatment, coining #RobFording. Ford also popped up on Jeopardy! this week. "In 2013 Rob Ford, mayor of this 4th-largest city in N. America, first said he smoked weed, not crack…then yes, ok, crack, too," asked Ontario-born host Alex Trebek.

Photo: Joe Bielawa. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.

Is Preston Manning's Senate pitch really "minor renovation" or "better housekeeping"?

The founder of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy says the best way to deal with the Senate is either through "minor renovation" or "better housekeeping."

Speaking on CBC's Power and Politics on Wednesday, Preston Manning said "at least democratize the thing and put in term limits." If not, "the other one I picked was the better housekeeping. At least fix that, the expense business. More accountability and fix the residency requirement. That can be done by the Senate itself without even government legislation."

Before watching Manning's unimaginative Senate pitch, let's contextualize who would be tapped to fix the corrupted institution:

Harper's bagman:

Irving Gerstein, the self-described "party bagman/Senator," remains in Stephen Harper's inner circle as the Conservative Party's chief fundraiser, despite being knee-deep in the Senate spending scandal and cover-up in the Prime Minister's Office. The RCMP allege Gerstein agreed to have the party pay off Mike Duffy’s bogus expenses, but withdrew the offer when he found out the bill topped $90,000. The Mounties also allege Gerstein tried to influence an external audit into the Senate expense scandal by calling up a buddy at Deloitte to encourage the auditing firm to drop Duffy, a Harper appointee, from its probe.

Harper's loyal soldiers:

The spending scandal story told by senators David Tkachuk, Marjory Lebreton and Carolyn Stewart Olsen is being challenged by the RCMP. The Mounties allege Stewart Olsen and Tkachuk, in particular, "were instrumental in stick-handling the whitewash of a Senate internal report on Duffy's expenses after he had repaid the money." Bonus: Stewart Olsen used to serve as Harper's press secretary before Harper appointed her to the Senate.

Harper's Senate Losers Club: 

14 Harper-appointed senators who ran for a seat in the House of Commons, lost in a federal election, but were later appointed as legislators to Canada's Upper Chamber as a 'check' on the elected House.

People are worried about #cannibalrats, but what about our democracy? Abolish comes to mind as the best option if the goal is real democratic renewal.

Over to Manning:


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