March 4, 2013
Former Canadian spy watchdog now facing charges
The man once entrusted to keep an eye on Canada's spy agency is now a wanted man.
An arrest warrant is out for Arthur Porter, the former head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) watchdog agency, for alleged fraud in one of the country’s most expensive infrastructure projects.
He is among the five people named in arrest warrants issued last week by Quebec’s anti-corruption squad, in the case of the $1.3 billion construction of a Montreal mega-hospital.
The others are: former SNC Lavalin senior executives Pierre Duhaime and Riadh Ben Aissa, Yanai Elbaz and Jeremy Morris, the administrator of a Bahamas-based investment company.
The warrants state that the men are wanted on numerous charges - including fraud, breach of trust and document forgery.
They state Porter and Elbaz are wanted under suspicion of having accepted bribes from some of the others.
Porter was the director general of the McGill University Hospital Centre (MUHC) when the alleged fraud occurred.
He was also head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which he joined in 2008 before becoming its chairman in 2010.
Porter resigned under suspicious circumstances in 2011, and has since left the country.
After that affair, the federal government tightened the screening process for nominees to the intelligence committee.
Quebec’s provincial police anti-corruption squad has made numerous arrests over the last year in relation to ongoing scandals in the construction industry.
Duhaime, the former chief executive officer of engineering powerhouse SNC-Lavalin, had already been charged earlier this month with fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and issuing false documents.
Duhaime and another former top executive, Ben Aissa, face those charges stemming from a contract involving the building of the MUHC.
The criminal charges related to the arrest warrant are separate from the ones Duhaime and Ben Aissa already face, the police squad noted.
Duhaime is due back in court on May 23 and is not allowed to leave Canada.
Meanwhile, Ben Aissa has been detained in Switzerland since April 2012 and is awaiting trial there on charges related to alleged corruption, fraud and money-laundering in North African countries including Libya.
Elbaz is a former high-ranking MUHC executive who served as associate director-general before quitting to go into private consulting in October 2011.
His name has come up during Quebec’s corruption inquiry, on a list of names of people who met with a controversial construction magnate at an exclusive Montreal club.
The other person named in the warrants, Morris, is linked to a company called Sierra Asset Management, which police say served as an intermediary between SNC and MUHC officials.
Both Porter and Morris are listed on the warrants as living in the Bahamas.
Porter has kept a low profile since leaving Montreal in 2011, when questions were raised about his business dealings.
In a rare interview, he recently told CBC News that he has cancer.
In an interview at his health clinic in the Bahamas, Porter said he had done nothing wrong.
He characterized the allegations against him as “spurious” and the result of a “witch hunt.”
“I mean it just seemed that there were attacks from all angles,” Porter told the CBC.
“I mean if you looked at each piece maybe you would say, ‘OK, maybe that’s an issue, that’s an issue.’ But it just seemed to be that I was responsible for the snowfall in Montreal.’”
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2013
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