Len Barrie was acquitted Thursday of charges he failed to file tax returns for one of his companies.
Barrie, the former CEO of the Bear Mountain Master Partnership, was cleared of two counts alleging he failed to file taxes in 2008 and 2009 for Bear Mountain Projects Ltd.
In an oral decision rendered soon after defence and Crown counsels made their final submissions, provincial court Judge Loretta Chaperon both cleared Barrie and criticized the Canada Revenue Agency for its handling of the matter.
In her ruling, Chaperon agreed with Barrie’s defence team, who had argued throughout the three-day trial that he could not have filed the returns because Bear Mountain Master Partnership controlled Bear Mountain Projects. Barrie’s lawyers also argued that, because the partnership was under creditor protection, responsibility for filing tax returns fell to the receiver in charge.
Chaperon pointed out that Barrie believed he had complied with Canada Revenue Agency’s requirements by filing 22 returns for nine other companies, which had also been involved in the Bear Mountain development, and that he had been told the tax returns for Bear Mountain Projects were to be filed by the receiver.
“He mistakenly, but reasonably I find, believed that the Bear Mountain Master Partnership would file,” she said.
“And because of that reasonable but mistaken belief, I find there is grounds for acquittal.”
Chaperon added there were also grounds for acquittal on the basis the Crown failed to prove an essential element of the offence — that the 90 days provided to file the returns was reasonable given the company was involved in a Companies Creditor Arrangement Act process.
“The [Canada Revenue Agency] auditor seemed to have done very little to familiarize herself with the CCAA proceedings and she took no legal advice on what I find to be a very complex legal matter,” she said.
For his part, Barrie’s reaction to the decision was subdued.
“I’m happy, but I just wanted the truth out there from the beginning. The facts are the facts,” he said in an interview.
“It’s now time to move on.”
Barrie said he harbours no ill feelings.
“I don’t really think there’s vindication in this,” he said. “I always face up to things. I was there when things were going well and I was there when they weren’t, and I’m still here.
“I have not run away and hid from anything. I believe you have to face whatever accusations are there, deal with them and be honest.”
Barrie also noted that no matter what, the Bear Mountain development is still his legacy.
“It’s a great place and it’s never going away,” he said. “It’s too bad how it turned out, but you have to get on with life.”
HSBC, Bear Mountain Master Partnerships’ largest creditor, took control of Bear Mountain in the fall of 2010.
Barrie was removed as CEO in March 2010. At the time, the resort was in default on some loans and owed secured creditors more than $300 million.
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