Anti-corruption task force issues warrants for Arthur Porter and other former execs
The former head of the MUHC is now a wanted man.
Quebec's anti-corruption task force suspects Porter and four high-profile executives involved in the construction of the McGill University Superhospital were part of a massive fraud conspiracy.
UPAC issued arrest warrants Wednesday morning for Arthur Porter, Pierre Duhaime, Riadh Ben Aissa, Yanai Elbaz and Jeremy Morris.
UPAC confirmed Wednesday that Elbaz – the former associate director general of the MUHC – is in custody and will be charged Thursday.
Duhaime -- the former CEO of SNC-Lavalin – will turn himself in to Surete du Quebec headquarters Thursday morning after his lawyers contacted UPAC officers. He has already been charged with fraud and has pleaded not guilty.
Ben Aissa -- another former executive at SNC-Lavalin -- has already been arrested and questioned by police for his possible role in other plots.
All five are wanted for fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and related charges.
UPAC raided the MUHC headquarters in September.
Who are they?
Arthur Porter was named CEO of the McGill University Health Centre in 2004 and spearheaded the drive to create the superhospital.
Porter stepped down as CEO in 2011, three months before his contract was set to end, under a cloud of controversy.
McGill University is suing Porter to recoup a $317,000 loan and $30,000 in compensation.
He was also appointed in 2008 by the federal goverment to run the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the agency responsible for monitoring CSIS, Canada's spy agency.
Porter is currently in the Bahamas where he is being treated for cancer. He also runs a medical clinic which CTV Montreal contacted today.
Nobody at the clinic was willing to say anything about Porter, aside from saying that he was not present at the moment.
Porter is wanted for fraud, conspiracy, defrauding the government, breach of trust, and possession of stolen property.
UPAC confirmed Wednesday that it has begun extradition procedures to bring Porter to Canada.
Porter faces several charges, including fraud, breach of trust and laundering the proceeds of crime.
In 2011 Pierre Duhaime publicly opposed setting up an inquiry into allegations of corruption.
He resigned as president of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin in March 2012 and received a $5 million retirement package.
SNC-Lavalin suspended those payments in December, one month after Duhaime was arrested and charged with fraud, conspiracy and forgery. He's now facing new sets of charges including defrauding the government.
Duhaime is accused of approving $56 million in payments in order to secure contracts, and now that money is now missing.
His initial arrest prompted SNC-Lavalin to replace most of its board of governors.
Riadh Ben Aissa was another former executive at SNC-Lavalin.
He was arrested in April 2012 in Switzerland on allegations of fraud, corruption and money laundering.
Ben Aissa is accused of handling the missing $56 million, with some of it reportedly spent on winning contracts in North Africa, and some spent on winning MUHC contracts.
SNC-Lavalin had fired Ben Aissa in February 2012 because of his ties to Al-Saadi Gadhafi, son of Libya dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Ben Aissa is currently in Switzerland awaiting trial on charges of fraud, corruption and money-laundering.
Yanai Elbaz was associate director general of the MUHC.
The architect was in charge of planning renovations to the Montreal General Hospital and a key figure in designing the superhospital.
He left the MUHC in 2011.
In December the Charbonneau Commission revealed that Elbaz met a dozen times with construction company head Paolo Catania.
Elbaz is wanted for fraud, conspiracy, defrauding the government, breach of trust, and possession of stolen property.
Jeremy Morris is an administrator of an investment company called Sierra Asset Management. He lives in the Bahamas.
MUHC board, employees relieved
Claudio Bussandri, chairman of the MUHC Board of Directors issued a statement (scroll down for full statement) concerning the allegations:
"The alleged actions of Dr. Porter and Mr. Elbaz are clearly contrary to our values and our code of ethics.
We wish to reiterate that the authorities have made it clear that no current employee or the institution itself is under investigation.
I speak on behalf of the board of directors and the entire muhc community in expressing our anger and sadness with the alleged behaviour of Dr. Porter and Mr. Elbaz."
News of the arrest warrant came as no surprise to MUHC employee Judith Ryan.
"I'm extremely happy that it's finally come to light, because we knew for a long time that there was something not right at the MUHC," she said.
The fraud allegations made some employees lose faith, said union representative Paul Thomas.
"It's like that for every employee," he said. "We lose faith in this administration to bring back a good spirit to this hospital."
This could be a means to an end to corruption at the MUHC, said union representative Line Laroque.
"If there are other things not done properly, maybe we will have the final answer and clean it up once and for all. We are tired of it," she said.
Allegations an issue in Ottawa
Because Porter was also once entrusted to watch over Canada's spy agency, CSIS, and was appointed to the role by the Harper government -- Porter also resigned from that role under suspicion -- Public Security Minister Vic Toews was asked about the warrant Wednesday.
"The allegations that Mr. Porter is facing has nothing to do with his former responsabilities," he said.
Message from Claudio Bussandri
Chairman of the Board of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)
February 27, 2013
We learned today that warrants have been issued for the arrest of Dr. Arthur Porter and Mr. Yanai Elbaz, two former executives of the MUHC, along with three other individuals. Dr. Porter and Mr. Elbaz are charged with “fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraud against the government, breach of trust, taking secret commissions and money laundering”.
As we have repeatedly stated, if any illegal behaviour took place, the individuals involved should be prosecuted. The alleged actions of Dr. Porter and Mr. Elbaz are clearly contrary to our values and our code of ethics. Please rest assured that we will continue to monitor the situation and assess our options, including legal action.
We wish to reiterate that the authorities have made it clear that no current employee or the institution itself are under investigation.
We have frequently expressed our hope that UPAC would complete its investigation without delay. Today’s warrants bring clarity to the situation, and, as we have done since September, we will continue to collaborate with the authorities. We should also point out that we have taken measures to update our governance as well as our administrative policies and procedures in order to ensure that we will meet the highest standards.
I speak on behalf of the Board of Directors and the entire MUHC community in expressing our anger and sadness with the alleged behaviour of Dr. Porter and Mr. Elbaz. We are particularly upset for the 12,000 women and men who work at the MUHC, providing patients and their families with leading edge care on a daily basis. We admire you and are grateful for your compassion, dedication and professionalism.
Going forward, our focus is on advancing our academic healthcare mission and being a leader in patient care, teaching, research and technology assessment. We have a proud tradition of excellence, and all of us are committed to building on this solid foundation.