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Documents: Canada lawyer banked offshore

April 4, 2013 at 3:31 PM

REGINA, Saskatchewan, April 4 (UPI) -- A prominent Canadian lawyer set up offshore accounts holding almost $2 million and named his wife, a senator, as a beneficiary, leaked documents show.

Tony Merchant's financial activities came to light with a massive leak of documents on offshore banking to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. The documents showed secret accounts set up by 130,000 people from all over the world, including 450 Canadians.

Merchant, who practices law in Regina, heads the Merchant Law Group, which has offices in major Canadian cities. The group has represented plaintiffs in a number of high-profile class-action lawsuits.

He has also been involved over the years in disputes with Canadian tax authorities.

The documents show Merchant set up a trust in the Cook Islands in 1998, putting at least $1.7 million Canadian (the U.S. and Canadian dollars are currently near par), the CBC said. The islands, a self-governing region of New Zealand, are an offshore banking haven.

His wife, Sen. Pana Merchant, and their two sons were named as beneficiaries.

Merchant instructed the trust to open a brokerage account in Bermuda, another banking haven.

The documents suggest Merchant wanted to keep his financial affairs hidden. One note on the Cook Islands account said only airmail should be used for communications.

"Keep correspondence to a minimum," the note said. "Do not fax to client. He will have a stroke."

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