From ............ National Catholic Reporter

November 22, 1996

page 7


A Maronite [Roman] Catholic religious order has been charged with tax fraud in a scheme to issue more than $10 million in false tax receipts to more than 200 parishoners. Two lay trustees of the order have also been charged.

Headquarters of the order is in Canada, near Montreal.

The charges, filed Nov. 6, allege that the Antonian Order of Lebanese Maronites and two of its trustees carried out a scheme to help members of the parish church evade part of their federal income tax payments from 1989 through 1994.

An investigation of the order began after a former member tipped off authorities. The former member told tax officials the order issued her a receipt for double the amount of her actual donations. She then used the inflated donation figure to reduce her income taxes.

The charges came at the end of a year-long probe by tax officials. Investigators raided the order's monastery and church in November 1995. In February the Vatican sent a priest and a lawyer to investigate the parish and the Maronite diocese of Montreal. The Vatican action came after Bishop George Abi-Saber, 72, abruptly resigned and fled to Beirut.