In the crosshairs of the taxman: more than $ 100 million in hidden income for a former VP of Cirque du Soleil

In the crosshairs of the tax authorities: more than $100 million in hidden income for a former VP of Cirque du Soleil

MISE À DAY

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is on the trail of a former partner of star director Franco Dragone, suspected of having concealed more than $100 million as part of a case of money laundering and international tax evasion.

The federal tax authorities estimate that Louis Parenteau owes him a sum between $24.7 and $56.5 million, according to a legal procedure consulted by our Bureau of Investigation.

The CRA initiated a lawsuit in mid-July against Parenteau in an attempt to lift the corporate veil and get their hands on high-value assets transferred to trusts, including three properties in Quebec (see other text< /em>).

Parenteau, a lawyer registered with the Barreau du Québec, was vice-president of legal affairs for Cirque du Soleil in the 1990s, before taking the helm of the company. ex-star director of the circus, Franco Dragone.

Troubles with Belgian justice

According to proceedings filed in Superior Court, Revenue Canada received information from Belgian authorities in connection with an investigation “alleging money laundering and international tax evasion involving Parenteau and certain of his associates”.

Offices of Dragone's company were searched in Belgium in 2014 and Parenteau was interrogated in 2016. However, no charges were brought against the latter.

< p>In the crosshairs of the taxman: more than $100M in hidden income for a former Cirque VP du Soleil

Franco Dragone
Director

Our Bureau of Investigation had reported in 2020 that the Belgian authorities had finally chosen not to bring charges against him because the suspected facts were too old.

According to the procedure, Parenteau joined the Dragone group in 2001, in exchange for a sum of one million $US upon taking office and an annual salary of $350,000.

Following a dispute in 2008, a sharing of the assets of the Dragone group would however have been decided, with the transfer of assets (money and royalty rights on shows) totaling more than 100 million US dollars to an island company. British Virgins linked to Parenteau.

Parenteau would then have transferred investments in the Virgin Islands to a personal account in Guernsey for a value of $17 million. 

Monster notice of assessment

Following an audit, the Canada Revenue Agency issued notices of assessment to Parenteau “in order to tax income from the end of its partnership with Dragone”.

The ARC notably added $113.9 million to Parenteau's declared income for 2013. 

“In sum, depending on what the Appeals Division or the Tax Court of Canada will determine […], the tax debt of the latter will be between $24.7 million and $56.5 million,” alleges the tax. 

In October 2021, Parenteau objected in Federal Court to the notices of assessment received.

The Canada Revenue Agency expressed its opinion that the recovery of the sums could be compromised and therefore asked the Court to be able to urgently seize certain assets related to Parenteau.

No payment received

An order was issued in July authorizing the tax authorities to take collection action. 

The Court issued a certificate attesting that Parenteau is indebted to the tune of $24.7 million to the tax authorities. 

Despite these steps, “no payment has been received”, underlines the Canada Revenue Agency.

THE BUSINESS IN BRIEF

2001: Louis Parenteau, a former vice-president of Cirque du Soleil, takes the lead of the group Dragone.

2008: Louis Parenteau and Franco Dragone cease to be associated, after an argument. A sharing of assets is organized through an offshore company.

 
2013: Franco Dragone and Louis Parenteau are under criminal investigation in Belgium, according to the Belgian newspaper Le Vif.

2015: Properties and assets linked to Louis Parenteau are transferred to trusts.

2021: The Canada Revenue Agency issues notices of assessment against Louis Parenteau for hidden income estimated at more than $100 million.  

De luxurious houses and a hoard transferred to trusts

One of the properties transferred to trusts by Louis Parenteau, in Lac-Brome, in the Eastern Townships.

Louis Parenteau allegedly transferred assets of very high value and three properties in Quebec to two trusts when he began to smell the hot soup, according to the recourse of the Canada Revenue Agency.< /strong>

Two properties acquired in Lac-Brome, Estrie, for more than $600,000 each in 2009 and 2013 were sold, as well as a house in Outremont valued at $1.7 million in 2018.

“The plaintiff submits that these donations were made for the purpose of protecting Parenteau's assets from its creditors, in particular the tax authorities”, alleges the CRA in its request.

According to the CRA, the trusts of which Parenteau is the beneficiary and a numbered company are nothing more than alter egos of the lawyer. 

Indeed, Parenteau describes himself as the “owner assets in the name of the trusts of in a document emanating from the Royal Bank, underlines the IRS.

Insolvent

The CRA alleges that Parenteau is now insolvent. “His present assets are insufficient to pay his tax debt,” argues the tax authorities.

In the proceedings, the name of Hyman Jaimes Himan appears as trustee of the trusts related to Parenteau. He is a former partner of Ernst & Young in Montreal. 

His name appeared on a list of 41 accused in Belgium, but the Belgian public prosecutor's office determined in his case that there was no need to prosecute.

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