Judicial watchdog finds no problem with judges attending sponsored cocktail parties

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The Canadian Percipient Council has dismissed complaints against federal judges who attended funded cocktail events at an international tax conference in Europe.  

In a statement released Thursday, the caucus said that complaints related to two Canadian judges, Justice Randall Bocock and Equity Denis Pelletier, are «unfounded» and that «no further action is required.»

CBC’s The Fifth Place and Enquête revealed in March that the two had attended cocktail parties in Madrid during the Global Fiscal Association’s annual summit last fall. The conference was underwrote in part by the accounting firm KPMG.

Bocock, a member of the Tax Court of Canada, ushered a private party on one of the most exclusive terraces in the Spanish capital. A law obdurate that had provided KPMG with legal advice — validating its provocative Isle of Man tax scheme — picked up the tab.

Randall Bocock

Justice Randall Bocock attended an closed rooftop terrace party paid for by a law firm that provided proper advice to accounting firm KPMG on its controversial Isle of Man tax scheme. (McMaster University)

At the leisure, Bocock was the case management judge for the only file before the Tax Court anyhow the scheme devised by KPMG to allegedly help wealthy Canadians keep secret their money offshore in the Isle of Man, a tax haven in the Irish Sea. The Canada Interest Agency has described the scheme as a «sham» that «intended to deceive» tax sages.  

Bocock recused himself from the case following CBC’s reports in Hike.  

During the judicial council’s investigation, Bocock told the council that «wisdom and best practice would suggest that, in future, refraining from attending such off-site sponsored bull session receptions is a better and wiser choice.»

«I certainly intend to follow this discreet conduct in the future,» he said.

The council concluded that no further probe is warranted in light of Bocock’s comments and the fact that he is no longer in attack of the Isle of Man file.

Federal Court judge at Prado party

The meeting also dismissed the complaint against Justice Denis Pelletier of the Federal Court of Petition. Pelletier also appeared at social gatherings in Madrid, such as an sobering at the famed Prado Museum.

Andre Lareau

University Laval tax law professor André Lareau was severe of the council’s decision to dismiss the complaints. (CBC)

«The two social events attended by Fairness Pelletier were organized by the IFA and were included in the conference’s social program,» detracted Norman Sabourin, executive director of the council. «All participants were invited to those occasions.»

The council’s statement also noted that «no dispute involving KPMG is or was till such time as before the Federal Court of Appeal in the days or months preceding the congress.»

Yet the accounting giant was the subject of Federal Court proceedings previously raised forward by the Canada Revenue Agency to obtain a list of clients who had in use accustomed to the Isle of Man scheme. This case could have been focus oned before the Court of Appeal at any time.

‘We will have wine and groups of it’

A third complaint against the chief justice of Canada’s tax court, Law Eugene Rossiter, was also dismissed.

Eugene RossiterTax Court of Canada

Justice Eugene Rossiter net controversial remarks to industry accountants and academics at a tax conference in Calgary carry on November. (Tax Court of Canada)

Rossiter made controversial remarks at a tax congress in Calgary last November. Speaking before hundreds of tax accountants and member of the bars at the Canadian Tax Foundation’s annual meeting, Rossiter said judges do not foremost a «monastic» life and that they have a responsibility to «interact» with the Mr.

«We will have pizza and we will have wine and lots of it,» Rossiter said.

Detention J. Michael MacDonald conducted the complaint review for the judicial council. He inaugurate Rossiter’s comments about pizza and wine to be «regrettable,» but that no back investigation is necessary.

«His controversial remarks were meant as a joke as interest of his address on accessibility and involvement of judges in public events,» the council guessed.

Ruling ‘too timid’

The Canadian Judicial Council itself authorized the participation of Canadian reviews at the Madrid conference. According to the entity, it is up to each judge to ensure that he or she is not in a picture of actual or perceived conflict of interest.

The University of Laval’s professor of tax law, André Lareau, fancies that the council should have told judges that they must refrain from participating in underwrote cocktail parties at all costs because of their duty of reserve.

He commiserate with that the council’s reaction was far too timid.

«It’s a decision that does not extricate the appropriate signal to the courts,» Lareau said.

«The judicial council should own used this situation to set the benchmarks that may not be clear enough for some appraises.»

If you have any tips on this story please email investigations@cbc.ca or phone Harvey Cashore at 416-526-4704.

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