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​Canada Revenue Agency reviewing allegation of corruption within GTHL

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The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) says it is reviewing allegations that teams and organizations in the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) have been improperly bought and sold, the federal agency wrote in an email to former NHL player Akim Aliu.

“The CRA takes abuse of Canada’s tax system very seriously,” the CRA wrote in its Sept. 11 email to Aliu. “While most taxpayers respect the laws and pay their taxes, the CRA maintains various programs to ensure tax fairness. This includes the leads program, which gives the public the opportunity to report suspected tax or benefit cheating in Canada. The leads program received your correspondence and has sent it to the national leads centre for review.”

The GTHL is the world's largest minor hockey organization with more than 40,000 registered players and more than $10 million in annual revenue, according to its financial statements. Current NHL stars who played in the GTHL include Connor McDavid, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares.

The CRA emailed Aliu in response to a complaint he filed on June 6. The CRA wrote that the leads program coordinates and reviews information it receives from the public. Those leads can lead to new investigations, or may complement investigations that already are under way, the agency wrote.

In an emailed response to questions from TSN, the CRA’s media department wrote, “Due to the confidentiality provisions of the acts that we administer, the CRA is prohibited from releasing any information or updates about the leads we may receive, or subsequent actions taken.”

A former CRA investigator with more than 20 years of experience at the agency reviewed the email sent to Aliu and said it would be taken seriously.

“This can take a long time,” said the former investigator, who asked for anonymity because they said the CRA discourages its former employees from publicly discussing the agency.

“This won’t be a question of money. Money means nothing. It’s about right or wrong. But these investigations mean reviewing ownership and corporation records and the tax filings of corporations and people, and potentially requesting warrants to get access to documents and more information, and then serving those warrants, and that takes a while.”

Aliu said in an interview that he filed complaints to the CRA and the federal minister for sport after reading a TSN story in April that quoted a prospective buyer of a GTHL organization who alleged he had a deal in place to purchase it for $375,000 and had been coached on how to skirt the league’s rules prohibiting such sales.

Aliu, who helped co-found the Hockey Diversity Alliance in 2020 to fight racism and intolerance in hockey, has told TSN in a series of interviews that the GTHL and those who control the league’s 12 AAA organizations for nearly two years thwarted his group's effort to obtain an expansion organization that would have been called the Toronto Dream.

“At the end of the day, the government are the only ones who can be trusted to make a real change, force the league to do the right thing, and hold people accountable…,” Aliu said.

TSN has interviewed more than two dozen GTHL organization board members, coaches, and team executives over the past year who collectively describe the GTHL as a major industry that league officials struggle to police properly.

GTHL executive director Scott Oakman told TSN in March that the league had opened multiple investigations into allegations that some teams and the non-profit companies that run them have been inappropriately bought and sold. Oakman would not say how many investigations are underway and would only say that a number of cases had been opened.

In June, the GTHL said former Ontario Hockey Federation chair David Watt, a judge with the Court of Appeal for Ontario, had been appointed as the GTHL’s special integrity commissioner, and would provide an independent and confidential process for the disclosure and investigation of any wrongdoing relating to GTHL activities.

Watt would recommend to the GTHL board whether any parts of an investigation or disciplinary proceedings should be shared with the public.

GTHL spokesperson Stephanie Coratti did not respond to an email requesting comment on the CRA's review.

“There are currently investigations ongoing, but we have no update to provide,” Coratti wrote in an Aug. 29 email. “The GTHL has not commented on the existence or status of any investigation involving specific individuals.”