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Maronite Religious Order Charged with Tax Fraud

November 7, 1996

MONTREAL (AP) _ A Maronite Catholic religious order and two of its lay trustees have been charged with tax fraud in a scheme to issue more than $10 million in false tax receipts to more than 200 parishioners.

It is believed to be the first time a religious order has been charged with tax fraud in Canada.

The charges, filed Wednesday, allege that the Antonian Order of Lebanese Maronites and two of its trustees, Ralph Nahas, and Samir Boustany, carried out a scheme to help members of the Montreal-area parish evade part of their federal income tax payments from 1989 through 1994.

The order’s representatives and the two men are to appear in court Jan. 7.

An investigation began after a former member of the order tipped off authorities about the way the tax-evasion scheme is alleged to have worked.

The woman told tax officials the order issued her a receipt for double the amount of her actual donation. She then used the inflated donation receipt to reduce her income taxes, according to affidavits filed in a Quebec court.

The charges were authorized by a federal prosecutor after a yearlong probe by tax officials. Investigators raided the order’s monastery and temple in November 1995.

In February, the Vatican sent a priest and lawyer to investigate the parish and Maronite diocese of Montreal when its bishop, Georges Abi-Saber, 72, abruptly resigned and fled to Beirut after news of the investigation spread.

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