The former head of Canada's Federal Bridge Corporation (FBC) and his wife have been charged with a string of corruption offences tied to allegations of kickbacks and a $127 million contract awarded to the engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to refurbish Montreal's Jacques Cartier Bridge.

The RCMP yesterday raided the Victoria home of Michel Fournier and his wife Judith Barkley-Fournier.

It's the result of the Mounties' investigation into millions of dollars in payments to a Swiss bank account Fournier opened in 2000 under the code name "Zorro," just 20 days after awarding the contract to SNC-Lavalin.

The RCMP confirmed today they have arrested and charged Michel Fournier with:

  • Fraud on the government.
  • Breach of trust.
  • Possession of property obtained by crime.
  • Laundering the proceeds of crime.

Judith Barkley-Fournier has been arrested and charged with possession of property obtained by crime, and laundering the proceeds of crime, the RCMP said. 

The couple was released on a promise to appear before a Montreal court on Sept. 26. 

Fournier was a chief of staff to Liberal party leader Jean Chretien in the early 1990s. When Chretien became prime minister, he appointed Fournier to lead the FBC, a Crown corporation which oversees the awarding of huge megaproject contracts across Canada.

The investigation relates to "allegations of bribery payments paid to Fournier by SNC- Lavalin," said RCMP spokeswoman Brigitte Mineault, in a statement. 

"The payments were made during the time the contract was awarded to SNC-Lavalin … for repairs of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge in Montreal." 

Mineault said the alleged crimes took place while Fournier was president of both FBC and Ponts Jacques-Cartier Champlain, a Crown corporation responsible for maintaining bridges and highways in the Montreal region.

Trail of payments

An investigation by Radio-Canada's Enquête and CBC News in 2014 uncovered a trail of payments from a company called Promotag SARL — a commercial agent used frequently by SNC — which began making deposits into accounts controlled by Fournier that would total more than $1.4 million. 

When an Enquête team visited Fournier's Victoria home in 2014, Fournier denied having a Swiss bank account or ever receiving money from SNC-Lavalin or any of its agents. He later telephoned back to say he had opened a Swiss account for a family member, but he had no knowledge of the debits or deposits on that account.

SNC-Lavalin and its subsidiaries were charged last year with corruption and fraud tied to the global engineering giant's construction business in Libya.

The former CEO Pierre Duhaime and former executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aïssa are also facing charges over alleged bribery involving SNC-Lavalin's building of the Montreal McGill University superhospital.

Montreal Infrastructures 20110803

A $127-million contract was awarded to SNC-Lavalin in 2000 to refurbish Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Bridge. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)