British Columbia

B.C. anti-tax crusader faces prison time

A Chilliwack, B.C., anti-tax crusader should go to prison more than six years after he and his wife were found guilty of evading hundreds of thousands of dollars in income taxes while counselling others to do the same, a Crown prosecutor says.

Russell Porisky taught 'natural person' theory as basis for not paying income tax

Russell Porisky appeared in a Vancouver courtroom Monday for a pre-sentence hearing. (CBC)

A Crown prosecutor is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to put a Chilliwack anti-tax crusader in prison for more than six years.

Russell Porisky, who operates an organization called Paradigm Education Group, was convicted in January, along with wife Elaine Gould, on charges of evading taxes of more than $225,000.

Porisky was also convicted of evading $66,000 in GST and counselling others to commit fraud.

At a sentencing hearing in Vancouver Monday, Crown attorney Bruce Harper recommended to Justice Elliott Myers that Porisky be imprisoned for 6½ years.

"A lot of people who pay taxes are interested to know what happens when people don't, and when people tell people they don't have to," Harper told CBC News after the hearing. "You have to pay tax. It's really just that simple."

The court was told that through Paradigm Education Group, Porisky taught more than 800 people at paid seminars about his "natural person" theory.

In his interpretation of law, Porisky believes each working Canadian is being taxed as an "artificial person," a category created by government. If one declares oneself a "natural person," no taxes need to be paid.

"Today, Canadians are economically enslaved," Porisky is heard telling a seminar in a recording posted to YouTube. "It's the new form of slavery."

But neither the Canada Revenue Agency nor the B.C. Supreme Court accepted the argument.

"It is difficult to set out [Porisky's] line of argument with cogency because it lacks logic, coherence and consistency," Myers wrote in his judgment.

It's estimated Porisky's adherents evaded at least $11.5 million in taxes from 2004 to 2008, the court heard.

One of Porisky's students, Leo Fung, a Vancouver dentist and part-time clinical professor at the University of British Columbia, also has been under investigation, CBC News has learned.

Leo Fung, a Vancouver dentist and part-time clinical professor at the University of British Columbia, also has been under investigation.

According to information used to obtain a search warrant, investigators allege that while Fung earned $3.1 million dollars over five years, he failed to pay a total of $860,000 in taxes.

Charges have not been laid against Fung, and none of the allegations has been proven in court.

So far, more than a dozen of Porisky's other followers, have been convicted of tax evasion.

"I think it's a tragedy from the point of view ... of the individual people that went to the seminars, followed this advice, these teachings, and then finding it's not quite what it appeared to be," said Harper.

Porisky, who the judge warned Monday will be going to jail for some period, will be sentenced May 10.

With files from the CBC's Eric Rankin