Baird eyes shutting down Eritrean consulate in Toronto
July 27, 2012
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Eritrea is facing increased diplomatic pressure from the Canadian government
after a United Nations report published this week said the country has been
using its Toronto consulate to force expatriates to pay taxes that help
bankroll its military.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is considering "all options," including
shutting down the consulate, and has "called in" Canada's Eritrean consul to
meet with Canadian officials after the criminal allegations appeared in the
report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, a senior
government official said Thursday.
The report, published online Monday, said the Eritrean consulate in Toronto
has been using coercive tactics to impose a 2 per cent income tax on
expatriates to help finance the military, a fundraising practice the UN
monitoring group says "arguably" violates an arms embargo imposed by the
United Nations in 2009.
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police assessment included in the UN report found
that a "refusal to pay the tax often results in denial of service or threats
against, or harassment of, family members still residing in Eritrea, or
possible arrest of the individual should they travel to Eritrea without
paying the taxes alleged to be owing."
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Greg Cox said he could not confirm details of a criminal
investigation unless criminal charges are laid, but added that the police
force "is concerned about the issue as there exists a potential link with
Semere Ghebremariam O. Micael, Eritrea's only accredited diplomat in Canada,
could not be reached for comment Thursday.
But in a comment to a Toronto newspaper in 2011, another Eritrean consular
official denied allegations of forced taxation, and said the "voluntary" 2
per cent income tax went toward reconstructing Eritrea's roads, hospitals
Though a diplomatic letter sent by Baird to his Eritrean counterpart last
January revealed that he was aware of allegations of criminal activity
involving the Eritrean consulate in Toronto, this week's UN report prompted
strong reaction from the minister's office.
The senior official said members of the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum will be
delivering a message of concern to the Eritrean government. The ministry is
also working with legal experts to determine further action, the official
"All options are on the table," they said.
Received on Fri Jul 27 2012 - 10:53:44 EDT