The head of the Canada Revenue Agency is launching an internal investigation into a $381,000 rebate cheque issued to mob boss Nicolo Rizzuto in 2007, confirms Minister of National Revenue Kerry-Lynne Findlay.
"Today, the commissioner of the Canada Revenue Agency initiated an internal investigation to look into how this cheque, which has since been fully recovered, was incorrectly issued to Nicolo Rizzuto in 2007. We are committed to cracking down on crime and protecting the integrity of our tax system," Findlay said Friday in a written news release.
"This government considers any misconduct by tax officials unacceptable. We are acting to hold people accountable."
At the time of the rebate, Rizzuto was in prison and owed more than one and a half million dollars in unpaid taxes.
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In a message to all CRA employees on Friday, obtained by CBC News, Commissioner Andrew Treusch said initial inquiries into how the cheque was issued to Rizzuto have turned up "no criminal wrongdoing."
Treusch still decided to refer the matter to the Security and Internal Affairs Division for an "independent and immediate review."
His order was made with instructions that the division share information about any criminal behaviour with police.
"If any information revealed by this investigation gives rise to questions of possible criminal behaviour, I have given direction that it be shared immediately with law enforcement officials," Treusch said in his message.
This week, former CRA employees spoke on camera to the investigative program Enquête, on Radio-Canada, CBC's French-language sister network, as part of a three-year investigation by its journalists into graft allegations at the tax agency's Montreal office.
Two former auditors said problems at the CRA run much deeper than a $381,000 rebate cheque. The former CRA employees said they witnessed an attempt to stall a corruption probe and colleagues getting cozy with organized crime.
Message from the commissioner: Recent media coverage
As commissioner, it is incumbent on me to uphold the integrity of the Canada Revenue Agency and the administration of the tax system. I also know this to be a priority of our minister and of CRA employees.
I expect each of our 40,000 employees to uphold the highest ethical standards, as set out in our code of ethics and conduct. Employees who breach the code are subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. Where criminal wrongdoing is suspected, the matter is referred to law enforcement authorities, and we fully assist their efforts.
This week, questions have been raised in the media about a cheque issued in 2007 to Mr. Nicolo Rizzuto. I have made initial inquiries into this transaction, and, to date, have been advised of no criminal wrongdoing.
Nevertheless, to ensure due diligence and provide greater certainty, I am today referring the issue of how the cheque was issued to our internal investigators in the Security and Internal Affairs Division for independent and immediate review. This division reports to the CRA’s chief financial officer, and its report on this matter, which I have asked to be completed before the end of the calendar year, will be addressed to me. As always, if any information revealed by this investigation gives rise to questions of possible criminal behaviour, I have given direction that it be shared immediately with law enforcement officials.
The CRA will provide a public summary of the findings of its investigation when it is complete, as well as on any action to be taken as a result of the findings.
I remain confident of the strong culture of integrity that exists here at the CRA, and that, through this course of action, Canadians will continue to have confidence in the agency.
Andrew Treusch, commissioner