Inside the Nelson courthouse a tax evasion trial is underway, while outside the local doctor accused stands in peaceful protest, refusing to enter the building.
Warren Fischer, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine who co-founded Nelson’s Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences, is accused of evading about $66,000 in income taxes over three years — which carries a maximum sentence of a fine equivalent to 200 per cent the amount owed, plus two years in jail.
Fischer was expected to represent himself in the case. But when his trial began Monday morning, he remained outside the entryway of the courthouse surrounded by a dozen supporters.
He was paged several times and federal prosecutor Nils Preshaw went outside to advise him that court was in session. But he remained outside.
Judge Lisa Mrozinski ruled that the case could proceed ex parte, meaning without all parties present in the courtroom. She surmised his actions as, “an attempt to frustrate court process,” and allowed the trial to proceed.
Outside the courthouse, the Star asked Fischer why he hadn’t gone inside. He said he would comment on the condition that he be referred to as “©Warren-Joseph-Darnell: Fischer™” in print, then said “we’re standing here because we’re sovereign and we do not submit to their authority over us.”
Fischer also said he was waiting for settlement on a debt contract worth a dollar amount “in the quadrillions” before he would negotiate with the courts.
Fischer had no problem entering the courthouse for a pre-trial hearing in January, and his supporters drifted in and out of the courtroom on Monday relaying information back to him.
Preshaw noted there was a spot waiting for Fischer if he wants to attend at any point throughout the trial, though the information he missed would not be repeated for him.
The trial proceeded with Preshaw submitting five boxes of seized documents, as well as an electronic copy of everything on a CD, for evidence. He had plans to call 20 witnesses to testify in the case, including Canada Revenue Agency auditors, investigators and police who were involved in seizing the documents.
The first person to take the stand was a Canada Revenue Agency auditor from Penticton who was assigned in 2010 to an audit of the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences and its owner-shareholders, including Fischer. The auditor told the court he believed the Academy correctly reported all its business income, while Fischer’s personal tax returns reported earnings of only $1 in 2008 and a large net loss in 2009. Academy records showed cheques totaling more than $100,000 paid to Fischer in each of those years, according to the auditor.
Based on these findings, the auditor said he proposed adjustments to increase Fischer’s taxable income, which were submitted to the Canada Revenue Agency investigations department who took over the case.
A Canada Revenue Agency investigator in charge of the search of Fischer’s home took the stand next. She told the court her team had a warrant to seize financial documents and material related to the Paradigm Education Group, a tax protestor organization that offers seminars on “natural person theory” as a defence for not paying income taxes.
She said Paradigm Education Group material was seized from the house and a representative from that group came by the house and offered her a business card while the search was underway. She said the materials collected from the home filled two bankers boxes.
The other three boxes of evidence were seized from the Academy. Both search warrants were executed concurrently in March 2011. A computer specialist also seized the hard-drive from a computer in Fischer’s home office.
The two-week trial is scheduled for Nelson court for the rest of this week, then resuming the week of June 24.
If Fischer is found guilty, he will be required to appear in court for sentencing — which may require the judge to issue a warrant for his arrest and hold him in custody, if he continues to refuse to enter the courtroom.