Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Police probing Liberal 'network of corruption', more media attention ...

Police probing Liberal 'network of corruption'
DANIEL LEBLANC Globe and Mail 04/04/07

The police probe into the sponsorship scandal is focusing increasingly on the shadowy world of political organizers who siphoned federal funds from advertising firms on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, sources said yesterday.

In police parlance, the probes are now looking into the "network of corruption" involving Liberal fundraisers and organizers who were continuously asking advertising firms for kickbacks.

A source who has been interviewed by the RCMP said that police are asking more and more questions about Jacques Corriveau, a Liberal organizer described by Mr. Justice John Gomery as the "central figure in an elaborate kickback scheme."

The source said he and other acquaintances have been interviewed recently by the RCMP about Mr. Corriveau.

Mr. Corriveau was a friend and supporter of former prime minister Jean Chrétien, and he earned about $10-million in subcontracts from advertising firms involved in the sponsorship program, which was a national-unity initiative. Evidence at the Gomery inquiry showed that Mr. Corriveau provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to the Liberals, and put Liberal Party workers on his firm's payroll at no cost to the party.

Another Liberal organizer who attracted the attention of the RCMP, Joe Morselli, died last year. Mr. Morselli had received envelopes of cash from Jean Brault, the president of Groupaction Marketing Inc., in 2001.

The police focus is moving to Liberal organizers as the investigations into advertising firms draw to a close. So far, four admen and one former bureaucrat have been charged with fraud in relation to $5-million in sponsorship contracts.

Additional charges will come down when Crown prosecutors finish reviewing the police files on their desks.

The Quebec provincial police, which is handling sponsorship investigations alongside the RCMP, filed an international arrest warrant last week against former advertising executive Jean Lafleur, who is out of the country.

Canadian authorities believe Mr. Lafleur, who is facing 35 charges of fraud in relation to $1.6-million in contracts, has spent much of the past two years in Latin America.

"With certainty, he went to Costa Rica and Belize, and after that there was talk of Mexico," a source said.

Over the years, Mr. Lafleur's firm received $65-million in federal sponsorship and advertising contracts, while he and his immediate family made $12-million in salaries and bonuses.

He has been under investigation since 2004, but police have not been able to keep track of him. His driver's licence in Quebec has expired, and he hasn't been seen at his apartment in Montreal in two years, according to the international arrest warrant made public this week.

In addition to Lafleur Communication, the SQ has investigated another firm involved in the sponsorship program, Gosselin Strategic Communications.

Sources said the SQ has been in contact with Crown attorneys in Ontario because Gosselin Strategic Communications was based in Ottawa.

"This file is a responsibility of the Crown's office in Ontario," a source said.

Documents made public at the Gomery inquiry raised a number of questions over the firm's billing practices. In particular, former president Gilles-André Gosselin filed invoices for 3,673 hours of work on sponsorship contracts during a single year, an average of 10 hours a day every day of the year.

Over all, the criminal probe into the sponsorship scandal remains in high gear, even though the process is time-consuming and complex.

"The investigations are ongoing," RCMP Inspector Dominique Landry said.

The sponsorship program was launched after the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty, in which the federalist side narrowly beat the separatists.

The goal of the program was to increase the visibility of federal symbols in Quebec, including Canadian flags and banners.

The government spent $300-million on the program from 1996 to 2003. Half the money went to the sporting and cultural events that received funds in exchange for the placement of flags and banners, and the other half went to advertising firms that managed the program.


janfromthebruce said...

Gee, poor timing for the Liberals in Quebec with all these sponsorship investigations by policy and RCMP, and Harper doing election saber rattling at the same time. I wonder if this was planned strategy by Harper government.

audacious said...

either way, i suspect it will haunt the liberals for a very long time.