Police chief dismayed by arrest of former officer
Published Wednesday, October 9, 2013 2:14PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 10, 2013 8:29AM EDT
Montreal police chief Marc Parent says the force was devastated by the arrest and arraignment of a former top officer accused of selling secrets to the Hells Angels.
“When you say a ton of bricks, it was more for his colleagues who worked with him for five years, partners with him. It was quite something,” he said.
A high-ranking officer who retired earlier this year, Benoit Roberge was charged over the weekend with four crimes: two counts of gangsterism, and one each of obstruction of justice and breach of trust for allegedly selling information to the Hells Angels.
Roberge led the battle against biker gangs a decade ago, something that Parent said was particularly hurtful, adding that there were no signs he was working with those same gangs.
“No signs at all. You think that he's got a new life, more money… but nothing,” said Parent at a press conference Wednesday.
Roberge was arrested Saturday while on Montreal's South Shore in the company of several members of the criminal gang.
The Surete du Quebec began suspecting there was an active mole in the police force in November of last year. Key suspects in a cross-Canada drug bust vanished hours before police arrived.
Radio-Canada also reported that Roberge became a frequent visitor at the Montée Saint-François prison in Laval, where he often met with jailed Hells Angel René Charlebois, but that the biker was recording his exchanges with the investigator. Charlebois escaped from the prison and committed suicide two weeks ago.
The SQ found the recordings and arrested Roberge Saturday without telling the Montreal police.
Parent said that since the arrest, he had personally met with 200 investigators to discuss what the breach in security meant for the force, and that none of them were able to give him any sign that Roberge ever did anything that hinted of criminal wrongdoing.
Roberge also worked with the SQ and RCMP on major organized crime projects, all of which are now under review.
“Since Sunday, let's say my priority was to work with RCMP and Surete du Quebec just to make sure nobody's life was in danger and that ongoing operations were not compromised,” said Parent.
The only sign of trouble, said Didier Deramont, the head of the Montreal police’s special investigations unit, came in 2004, when Roberge was briefly sidetracked from the organized crime unit. His strong personality had led to clashes with his superiors.
“It was more of a management problem that was addresses at the time,” he explained.
Roberge worked for the Montreal police department for 11 years, retiring in April to take a position in the security arm of Revenue Quebec.
Roberge is married to Nancy Potvin, a Crown prosecutor who often handles organized crime cases involving the Hells Angels. That has forced the courts to bring in a Crown prosecutor from Quebec City for this case.
In the legal community, many defence lawyers are now wondering if their clients’ rights were affected by Roberge’s alleged crimes.
“I think it speaks to the general integrity of the system. We have to ask ourselves, was everything performed properly in our files? Did that investigator act fairly and unbiased in our file?” said defence lawyer George Calaritis.
Roberge returns to court Thursday for a bail hearing.