A law firm hired to investigate donations received by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation from two Chinese businessmen said it “could not exclude the possibility that the donations in question may have been part of a wider influence scheme.”

Additionally, the probe concluded that the foundation violated the Income Tax Act regarding receipts related to the Chinese donations. 

The law firm Norton Rose Fullbright was hired by the foundation to investigate the intentions behind several donations received in 2016 and concluded that they were not intended to influence the foundation themselves but instead Prime Minister Justin Truduea’s government. 

“We could not exclude the possibility that the donations in question may have been part of a wider influence scheme,” reads the report. “It is important to emphasize the fact that this potential scheme, if any, would have intended to target the Canadian government rather than the foundation itself.”

Findings from the investigation also revealed that Trudeau’s brother, Alexandre, broke internal policy rules by accepting the $200,000 donation without authorization. 

“Alexandre Trudeau was not specifically allowed to sign the donation pledge unless authorized to do so,” reads the report. “We did not identify any records or evidence that the Foundation’s board of directors authorized Mr. Alexandre Trudeau to do so. This being said, in our view, the donation pledge is valid.”

The report went on to say that there was no evidence linking the prime minister, nor the two Chinese billionaires, Zhang Bin and Niu Gensheng to being “involved in any illegal activities in connection with the donation itself.”

The foundation received a $125-million endowment from the Canadian government in 2002 under former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien to offer fellowships, scholarships and other programs. 

Last year, a source within CSIS informed the Globe and Mail that the agency had intercepted communications from 2014 between Zhang and an unnamed associate at one of China’s consulates in Canada which discussed the upcoming Canadian federal election. 

The discussions involved what the likelihood might be of Trudeau’s Liberals beating Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. 

The source, who wished to remain anonymous to avoid potential charges under the Security of Information Act, stated that Zhang was told by the Beijing diplomat that he would later be reimbursed the full amount of his donation to the foundation.

Nine months after Trudeau won the 2015 election, the Trudeau Foundation publicly identified Zhang and Niu as the donors behind a $1 million donation. 

The two first pledged a donation of $200,000 and then pledged $750,000 to the law school that Pierre Trudeau had previously taught at and attended as a student. 

There was an additional donation of $50,000 to construct a statue of Pierre Trudeau, however it was never constructed.  

In the wake of the Globe and Mail publishing their story, the foundation returned $140,000 to the Chinese donors, who at that point had only paid 70% of the amount pledged. 

It also resulted in eight of the foundation’s board members and its executive director resigning over the issue. 

The resignations were in response to having their request for an independent forensic audit of the exchange denied. 

Instead, the foundation decided to hire Norton Rose Fullbright to conduct the investigation, which failed to mention in its report that the Canada Revenue Agency also launched its own investigation, which would later issue the foundation a fine based on its findings.