Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard put $600,000 he earned in the 1990s in an offshore bank account in the Channel Islands, reveals a report by Radio-Canada's investigative team Enquête.
Couillard worked in Saudi Arabia between 1992 and 1996, setting up a neurosurgery clinic.
He stated publicly this week that he had money in an offshore account between 1992 and 2000.
"In Saudi, like all people who are there, I was a non-resident. So I put my assets at the time in a foreign bank and when I returned, I transferred the money back home," Couillard said Tuesday.
Couillard did not pay Canadian taxes on the money, which is perfectly legal as he had severed all ties with Canada at the time.
Couillard responds to Enquête report
The Liberal Party issued a statement late Wednesday evening, saying Couillard's account in the British Channel Isle of Jersey was public and that he paid all taxes due.
"While he was working abroad in the late 90s, Mr. Couillard's salary — like that of most of his Canadian colleagues — was deposited at a branch of the Canadian chartered bank Royal Bank of Canada in Jersey," the statement said, adding that since the year 2000 the account no longer belongs to him.
A spokesperson for the Liberal leader also told Enquête Wednesday that Couillard declared the revenue from the interest on the money and paid taxes as required by law, and reiterated that Couillard chose Jersey because that particular bank had links to a Canadian bank.
Financial experts disagree
A tax expert consulted by Enquête said she's skeptical.
"Mr. Couillard could have deposited his money in any financial institution in the world," said tax expert Brigitte Alepin. "If he chose Jersey it's because of its appeal — and its appeal, especially at that time, was secrecy."
But not all financial experts agree.
Université Laval tax expert André Lareau said it was likely a wise choice on Couillard's part.
"Nobody is forced to do or to make investment that will produce more taxes, so it was just a wise tax decision to invest money in Jersey," he said.
Jersey is situated between England and France and was, until recently, on a black list of banking jurisdictions.