From the National Post:
Consul Semere Ghebremariam O. Micael was ordered home Wednesday after a government investigation confirmed his office was soliciting money from expatriates — some of it explicitly for the Eritrean armed forces.
The fundraising scheme was illegal because the United Nations Security Council has imposed sanctions on the Eritrean military over its support for armed groups in the Horn of Africa such as the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab.
“Canada has taken steps to expel (declared persona non grata) Mr. Semere Ghebremariam O. Micael, Consul and head of the Eritrean Consulate General in Toronto, effective immediately,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement.
Mr. O. Micael must leave Canada by noon on June 5. As is typical in such cases, the government gave no explanation for the expulsion. The statement said only that Ottawa had repeatedly told Eritrea to respect international sanctions and Canadian law.
“I think it had to happen. The consulate was warned and ignored the warning,” said David Matas, the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group’s senior legal counsel.
“The people who were being victimized were Canadian dual nationals and permanent residents. It was essential that the government of Canada stand up for Canadians being victimized on Canadian soil by a foreign government.
The comments to the article are cute. According to some, IBS is left-wing extreme!
I’d like Baird to explain the difference between the US and Eritrea in this regard.
Nuthin’ like a little self promotion. Here you go, folks:
@All, ‘Mike in Hamilton’ needs some FATCA and FBAR lessons. Who wants to go first?
@Arrow. Il loved your article!
It would also be nice to mention the millions of Canadians (and other immigrants to the US) that would be hurt in the process because they are not compliant if their data is sent to the IRS, because of the draconian FBAR penalties.
And some of the lawyers they contact direct them to OVDI under the threat of possible deportation if they refuse to pay up. Talk about extortion and coertion…
Technically, the person expelled is the Eritrean consul in Canada. It looks like there used to be an Eritrean embassy in Ottawa but it moved to Toronto and became a consulate. The Eritrean ambassador to Canada is also the Eritrean ambassador to the US and stays in Washington, DC.
By the way, the US closed the Eritrean consulate in Oakland, CA in 2007 (for reasons unrelated to the diaspora tax). Currently, the only Eritrean diplomatic posts in the Americas are the embassy in Washington, DC and the consulate in Toronto.
I read that the Eritreans had formed a group and retained the services of a human rights lawyer. Why don’t we co-ordinate as many foreign Americans as we can, spanning, say, 30 cities worldwide? We’ll need a lawyer in each city, and probably a constitutional lawyer in the US to co-ordinate the case. When we’re ready, we co-ordinate the service of 30 class action law suits at 30 embassies simultaneously. We should all challenge the ‘Saving Clause’ in the bilateral tax treaty, without which the taxing authority where we live would have precedence over the IRS; Cruel and unusual FBAR punishment; citizenship based taxation, taxation without representation etc. It seems fraught with jurisdictional and diplomatic issues, but we could at least explore the idea.
Maybe even better. Let’s try to put 1000 of us together. We all contribute according to our means, but that should give us America’s best human rights lawyer, all the way to the supreme court if need be. File in DC and make sure we’re all there for the trial. It’s not just for ourselves, it’s for all the Accidental American’s who’ll be meeting the IRS via FATCA, but most importantly, for our kids, present and future, who stand to inherit a most unfortunate ‘gene’, unless we tend to it now.
@Accidental, Although citizenship-based taxation is horrible, I don’t think it’s unconstitutional. A change in the tax system would have to be done by the US Congress, not the courts.
All countries that have a tax treaty with the US accepted the saving clause, and I don’t think it’s illegal either. Instead of a lawsuit, perhaps you an others could try to contact the government of each of your countries and ask them to renegotiate the tax treaties to remove the saving clause.
An area that I think a lawsuit would make sense is the FBAR penalties. They are obviously excessive and therefore unconstitutional (the issue is not “cruel and unusual punishment”, but “excessive fines”), and there is already a precedent, United States v. Bajakajian, a very similar case. However, from what I understand, the person suing must have been charged an excessive FBAR penalty already, otherwise the lawsuit would not be accepted. That’s why I still think that the easiest solution is still to ask Congress to change the law. It seems to be working, slowly.
There are some interesting comments on the topic here:
Whether it’s unconstitutional according to U.S. law is beside the point. The point is that the way that the U.S. exercises direct supervisory control over the lives of Americans Abroad is (I believe) a violation of international law. Why? Because:
1. The U.S. is controlling and supervising the behavior of people in other countries.
2. The U.S. is directly attacking the treasuries of other nations.
The U.S. has to interact with the rest of the world. This means that it is must behave according to international norms. President Carter, in an op ed in the New York Times said he believes that the U.S. is in violation of a number of articles of the International Declaration of Human Rights.
The legal challenge should be a challenge to the U.S. before an international tribunal. The position of the U.S. courts is, at this point, completely irrelevant.
This is the Eritrea expat tax form:
It asks for one’s grandfathers’ name and states: “Under Penalties of perjury,I declare that I have examined this return and accpmpaying document,and to the best of my knowledge and belief,they are true, correct, and complete.”
@ Swisspinoy, looks like they’ve taken it from an IRS form. Perhaps their rep based in Washington is learning things from the Masters of Extraterritorial Confiscation – the US Treasury and IRS? Missing the request for the identifying and balance details of their non-Eritrean employer’s accounts, their local PTA fundraising accts, etc. Will an Eritrean version of the FBAR be forthcoming? Looks like they’ve learned from the IRS in terms of lookback periods!
The arguments made by Americans and Eritreans are not all that different:
@badger, that is what I was thinking. It looks like they modeled it from the “Exit Tax” form, with the difference being that they don’t allow an exit.
@Swisspinoy & badger
Wouldn’t it be fun to send both side by side to Baird? Why not cc the US Ambassador to Canada too?
@ShadowRaider. A constitutional challenge may not be the way to go, but most legal systems provide a variety of ways to bring a cause of action. I fully acknowledge that many attorneys might contrive a tenuous case to attract fees, but has anyone in these blogs seriously explored the options?
Lobbying our respective governments in respect of the Saving Clause might present an easier legal challenge in some countries, but we’d need 68 victories, with no benefit to those living in countries without treaties. Also, we’d be divided and small in number while promoting an obscure agenda requiring our governments to challenge a superpower. I’d have no appetite for that.
FBAR penalties may be easier to challenge, but that wouldn’t address our problem. It’s tragic that some have had their savings confiscated, but others opted out and others still were already FBAR compliant. The gorilla in the room is neither FBAR nor FATCA, it’s lifelong tax servitude to an absentee master asserting an immoral entitlement; alternatively confiscation through expatriation. We all face this problem, so an attempt to address it would likely coordinate the energies already apparent from this blog with those of many others. That’s a fight I’d happily join, and then I’d lobby hard for FBAR justice as well.
Pingback: The Isaac Brock Society
Pingback: The Isaac Brock Society
Pingback: The Isaac Brock Society | Eritreans in UK fight back against diaspora tax