RCMP found something they weren't looking for when they raided Caspian Construction offices in December 2014 — documents they called evidence of inflated invoices, fraudulent billing and the payment of a secret commission in the building of the Canada Post mail processing plant near the airport.
Court records obtained by CBC show RCMP found two binders full of records relating to the Winnipeg construction company's project for Canada Post six years ago.
The purpose of the raid, however, was to find evidence of alleged fraud and forgery involving Caspian's construction of the new police headquarters downtown. A section of the Criminal Code allowed police to seize the items.
Police took "two binders containing records and construction records for the Canada Post Mail Processing Plant built by Caspian," according to court documents.
"The records are: original and altered sub trades invoices with handwritten notes identifying them as being either 'true' or 'inflated' along with change orders, requests for progress payments claims with handwritten notes evidencing fraudulent billing and the payment of a secret commission," RCMP wrote in the court documents.
The two red binders were located in the office of Caspian's office manager, Pam Anderson. According to a court document signed by RCMP Constable Antoni Henryk Zoledowski, one binder was marked "AB JJ E-Z", the other "AB File A-D."
Anderson and Caspian owner Armik Babakhanians are named in the RCMP search warrant.
Canada Post said it was first contacted about the investigation by the RCMP on Feb. 2, 2016 and has been "fully co-operating".
"As this is a police matter, it would be inappropriate to comment further," said Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton.
RCMP said it hasn't determined whether a full criminal investigation will be launched into the Canada Post Mail Processing Plant. In a statement to CBC, police said that determination will be made at "a later date."
"RCMP investigators continue to review electronic files and are still evaluating all of the evidence obtained during the investigation. We know there are a lot of questions surrounding the investigation but as this case remains active and ongoing, and to maintain the integrity of the case, we are not able to provide additional and specific details at this time," RCMP spokesman Sgt. Bert Paquet said in an email.
The contract to design and build the post office plant was awarded to a joint venture between Aecon Buildings and Caspian Projects Inc. on July 3, 2008.
Construction began later that month and the 250,000 square foot mail processing facility officially opened on June 4, 2010.
RCMP said they are not investigating Aecon.
Probe into Winnipeg Police HQ continues
RCMP also continue to investigate Caspian's role in the building of the new Winnipeg police headquarters on Graham Avenue. In the court documents, police allege between Feb. 10, 2011 and Aug. 14, 2014 Pam Anderson and Armik Babakhanians "knowingly"created fake invoices thereby committing "forgery."
According to court documents quoting a former employee, Anderson worked at Caspian for about 20 years, and was Babakhanians "main person." Her job was to complete all "progress billing."
"Caspian would get their sub trade friends to charge more than it actually cost them so that Caspian would invoice more and get back more money," according to a former employee named in the RCMP's information to obtain the search warrant. "Caspian would not pay the full price to the sub trade. Caspian submitted an invoice to WPH (Winnipeg police headquarters) for payment, then make payment to the sub trades for what their actual cost was and receive the balance left over from the original invoiced price."
The former employee told investigators Anderson, Babakhanians and his son, Shaun Babakhanians "would talk openly in the office about altering things," according to court documents.
Armik Babakhanians refused to comment on any of the allegations.
Caspian has done work on many federal projects over the years, including projects in Cold Lake, Alta. and Manitoba's Shilo and 17 Wing. A Public Works and Government Services Canada spokesperson said he did not believe Caspian was currently involved in any federal government work.
The documents that authorized the search of Caspian Construction's headquarters on McGillivray Boulevard in December 2014 were unsealed after CBC News filed a motion last year to make them public.
No charges have been laid and none of the allegations in the court documents have been proven.
Some other Caspian projects:
- Canadian Fleet Pacific Building Headquarters for Defence Construction Canada, B.C.
This 16,000 square foot project was completed in 2007 and involved demolition, upgrade and renovation of the two headquarters buildings.
- CFB Esquimalt Paint Booth Addition and Battery Area Modifications, B.C.
The 90,000 square foot project included work areas for submarine maintenance and was finished in 2006.
- 17 Wing, Winnipeg, Man.
This 261,000 square foot Air Force project for the Department of National Defence brought together supply, transport and logistics units into one facility at 17 Wing. Construction took place from 2004 to 2006.
- CFB Shilo, Man.
This project, which was completed in 2004, involved the design and construction of a 460,000 square foot Infantry Battalion Unit Complex for the 1,200 members of the Second Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
- HMCS Chippawa Naval Reserve Division, Winnipeg, Man.
Caspian completed the design and construction of a new 40,000 square foot Naval Reserve Division in downtown Winnipeg in 1999.
- 4 Wing, Cold Lake, Alta.
Caspian built a 268,000 square foot building at 4 Wing, Cold Lake in 1999. It accommodates F-18 jet facilities, maintenance and training areas and office space.
source: Caspian Construction website