Celine Dion-owned restaurants raided by Revenue Quebec

Revenue Quebec has raided a restaurant chain founded by a group that includes pop diva Celine Dion.

The raids were conducted to investigate allegations that three restaurants in the Nickel chain used illegal "zapper" software programs to erase cash sales from their electronic cash registers.

The outlets raided last Thursday were in Rosemere, north of Montreal where Dion has a home, Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City.

Executives of the Nickels chain went to great lengths Friday to distance Dion from the investigation into possible tax fraud.

Gioia Pasqualini, the chain's marketing co-ordinator said: "We want to emphasize that Celine Dion is not part of the daily operations, the daily process at Nickels."

The zapper programs cost about $500 and are easy to obtain on the black market. They let restaurant owners evade taxes by under-reporting revenues.

There are 32 Nickels restaurants in Quebec, 10 in Ontario and two in Florida. Franchisees pay royalties to Dion and the other three investors.