Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Records Shed Light on Nixed Inquiry Funding for Owner of Collapsed Mall

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Records Shed Light on Nixed Inquiry Funding for Owner of Collapsed Mall

Article excerpt

Big sums in collapsed mall owner's accounts

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TORONTO - The owner of the northern Ontario mall that collapsed last summer killing two women claimed to have no money for legal help at a public inquiry into the tragedy although large sums moved in and out of his personal bank accounts, records show.

Financial documents, released this week after a fight over secrecy, shed light on why Commissioner Paul Belanger rejected a bid by Robert Nazarian to have taxpayers foot his bill for the inquiry.

In their application, Nazarian and his son Levon argued their main source of income collapsed with the Algo Centre Mall.

"Without funding, the other applicants and I would be precluded from participating in the inquiry as we do not have adequate financial resources," Nazarian said.

Tax records show Nazarian, 67, declared employment income of $40,000 in 2011, a similar amount in 2010, and $46,300 in unspecified business income in 2009.

Bank records also show Nazarian had run up $847,000 on a personal line of credit last fall -- just under its limit -- but made $248,000 in repayments over a four-day period last fall -- around the time he was arguing for taxpayer funding.

Chequing account statements also indicate deposits in amounts such as $25,000, $35,000 over a few days last September, and a $50,000 deposit in July.

Belanger stumbled over these amounts.

"Several entries record the transfer of various large sums into Robert Nazarian's bank account without any explanation about their source," Belanger wrote in his previously released ruling.

Reached at home Thursday, Nazarian referred a request for comment to his lawyer, who did not immediately respond.

In asking for funding, Nazarian also said two other companies -- Yorkdale Group Inc. and Yorkdale Centre Inc. of which he is president and director -- have provided money to help out his Eastwood Mall Inc. …

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