The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundations stated it could not rule out if Chinese donations had been used to receive favour from the Trudeau Liberals.
A special committee hired by the organization said its handling of tax receipts from a questionable $200,000 donation did not comply with the Income Tax Act.
The probe said the Prime Minister’s brother, Alexandre, signed the donation pledge without proper authorization. Foundation policy at the time required donations under $1 million to be signed by the organization’s president and chief executive, Morris Rosenberg.
“We did not identify any records or evidence that the Foundation’s board of directors authorized Mr. Alexandre Trudeau to do so,” reads the report published Monday.
“This being said, in our view, the donation pledge is valid,” it adds. Two billionaires with ties to Beijing, Zhang Bin and Niu Gensheng, made the pledge.
The Globe and Mail cited a 2014 conversation last February between Zhang and a Chinese diplomat stationed in Canada, who discussed the 2015 election and the possibility of a Liberal government.
Beijing would reimburse him for the donation, according to the unnamed security source, but the special committee found no evidence of this reimbursement.
The Globe first reported that the China Cultural Industry Association, an organization with ties to Beijing, contacted the Trudeau Foundation to dictate the relevant information for the 2016 tax receipt. They urged the organization not to name Zhang or Niu, but to include a firm run by the former.
The tax receipt linked the Hong Kong address for Millennium Golden Eagle International rather than its Canadian branch, which references a Montreal residence in the suburb of Dorval.
The Globe later reported the company did not appear to ever have registered in Hong Kong.
The special committee confirmed the donation did not come from either man, but the Millennium’s Canadian subsidiary. It contravened internal foundation rules and the Income Tax Act.
“We could not exclude the possibility that the donations in question may have been part of a wider influence scheme,” said the report on the donation.
Trudeau has repeatedly said his involvement with the foundation ceased when he actualized his political aspirations more than a decade ago. The report notes the foundation nor the Prime Minister “were involved in any illegal activities in connection with the donation itself.”
But the special committee said “a number of individuals, including a few key witnesses, declined or ignored our requests to meet” during its investigation.
Nine months after Trudeau formed a majority government, the foundation and the University of Montreal identified Zhang and Niu as the donors behind a $1 million gift.
The men pledged $200,000 to the foundation, $750,000 to Pierre Trudeau’s Alma mater, and $50,000 for a statue of the elder Trudeau that the university never built.
Ample media reporting and public pushback compelled the foundation to return the $140,000 it received, leading to mass resignations among the board in April.
“It is important to emphasize the fact that this potential scheme, if any, would have intended to target the Canadian government rather than the foundation itself,” adds the report.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has yet to sanction the Foundation or revoke their registered status over the dereliction of tax law, reported The Globe.
“The confidentiality provisions of the Act prevent the CRA from releasing any information regarding if or when they were last audited,” said CRA spokesman Charles Drouin.
The organization operates on a $125 million endowment from former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien to offer scholarships, fellowships and leadership programs in honour of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.