An Ontario choose dismissed Monday an try by a Swiss environmental group to acquire entry to paperwork from a few of Canada’s greatest monetary corporations, paperwork the group sought to probe in connection to its allegations that proceeds of corruption have flowed to Canada from Malaysia.
Bruno Manser Fonds, a Switzerland-based not-for-profit group devoted to preserving tropical rainforests, launched the authorized bid searching for monetary data from Royal Financial institution of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Financial institution, insurer Manulife Monetary Corp. and accounting agency Deloitte.
In its discover of utility, the group claimed the paperwork would element “the move of funds from a public official in Malaysia,” Abdul Taib Mahmud, the governor and former chief minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, to Taib’s daughter and her husband, who management a variety of Canadian firms.
“It seems that such funds are proceeds from corrupt exercise carried out by Taib and his associates and that the move of funds from Taib’s corruption into Canada … constitutes cash laundering,” BMF alleged within the discover of utility.
“Due to the companies supplied, the respondents have paperwork of their possession that the candidates require for the needs of evaluating whether or not a felony case for a non-public prosecution exists and for which entities a non-public prosecution for the offence of cash laundering and any associated offences will be introduced.”
However Ontario Superior Courtroom Justice Sean Dunphy dismissed the applying at a listening to in Toronto. Dunphy didn’t weigh in on the allegations themselves, which haven’t been confirmed in court docket, simply the proposed disclosure order.
The preliminary bid by BMF had been sealed till final September, however one other choose famous in an August-dated endorsement that the “reduction sought by the plaintiffs is extraordinary by any measure.”
A factum of the banks, supplied to the Monetary Submit by BMF, requested that the applying be dismissed, arguing that granting it “would supply an unprecedented path for nearly anybody, from anyplace, to knock on the doorways of Canadian monetary establishments … searching for broad, ill-defined manufacturing of confidential monetary data on the mere and speculative suspicion of felony wrongdoing.”
RBC declined remark for this story. TD, citing coverage and respect for purchasers’ confidentiality, mentioned they “can’t present any details about any particular case or buyer matter.”
The August resolution said that BMF alleged “that on account of the corrupt issuance of logging licenses in Sarawak by Mr. Taib, the rainforests have been decimated and the indigenous peoples of the island of Borneo, together with the Panan and the Kelabit tribes, have been impoverished and disadvantaged of their conventional sources of livelihood.”
The group’s discover of utility additionally particularly named Ottawa-based actual property firm Sakto Corp., alleging that Sakto obtained a minimum of $28.eight million in shareholder loans that “seem to have been funded by Taib and his members of the family.”
Sakto, which is managed by Taib’s daughter and her husband, has denied the allegations. After Monday’s dismissal, a press release from Duncan Fraser, counsel for Sakto, characterised the choose as “unequivocal that Canadian legislation didn’t permit international ‘vigilante residents’ teams’ to bypass the Canadian Structure and get entry to non-public data the place they don’t have proof any crime was dedicated.”
“Sakto is a Canadian household enterprise that has all the time operated to the best moral requirements and in full compliance with Canadian legal guidelines,” Fraser added. “With this resolution, we think about the matter closed.”
However there are nonetheless choices open to BMF, together with a attainable attraction or an try at a non-public prosecution with out the paperwork, in line with Lincoln Caylor, one of many attorneys for BMF.
Lukas Straumann, government director of BMF, mentioned financial institution data are “the important thing piece of knowledge we want for that case.”
“In a method, we’re in a Catch-22 state of affairs,” Straumann mentioned. “Nevertheless it’s not the top of the street, I wish to make that clear.”
A spokesperson for Manulife mentioned in an e mail that it “diligently adheres to all native legal guidelines and regulatory necessities, and encourages anybody who believes that a person or group shouldn’t be complying with the legislation to pursue these considerations with the suitable authorities.”
A spokesperson for Deloitte mentioned in an e mail that the agency “performs its work in strict accordance with the best skilled requirements and takes very significantly the confidentiality necessities of the work we do for our shoppers.”
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