Winnipeg HQ investigation raises questions about church construction
Door marked 'Winnipeg Police Services' used in south-end church
Documents seized from Caspian Construction offices in an RCMP raid are raising questions about the construction of a church on Chevrier Boulevard.
A numbered company operating as Mountain Construction, linked to Caspian, built Soul Sanctuary's 34,000-square-foot church/community centre between December 2012 and July 2014, at the same time it was renovating the new Winnipeg police headquarters on Graham Avenue.
Soul Sanctuary is affiliated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.
Caspian is alleged to have inflated invoices in the building of the over-budget police HQ, according to RCMP affidavits in court documents. Some of the files RCMP seized from Caspian offices relate directly to the Soul Sanctuary project.
CBC News has also obtained a photograph taken at the Soul Sanctuary church construction site on Chevrier Boulevard in October 2013, showing a door frame marked "Winnipeg Police Services H."
Court documents used to get a search warrant for Caspian stated, "Invoices are said to have been improperly associated to the WPS building when in fact the work was either done at other city properties, private properties or was not done at all."
There is no specific mention in the court documents that the headquarters budget was charged for work done on Soul Sanctuary.
Soul Sanctuary's lawyer said the RCMP asked the church about its construction contract with Caspian.
"They [Soul Sanctuary] are now being investigated" because the timing of the contract coincided with the Winnipeg police job, said tax lawyer Leilani Kagan, who represents Soul Sanctuary.
"My client was told that their contract was being looked at and therefore materials or records sealed or seized because they entered into a contract with Caspian during the period that was under investigation," said Kagan.
"They [Soul Sanctuary] are the innocent party that paid Caspian a lot of money to build them a building," Kagan added.
The RCMP's Report to a Justice document shows several files relating to Soul Sanctuary were seized from Caspian's office in the 2014 raid, including:
- Documents on office desk — invoicing for Soul Sanctuary Project.
- Envelope containing documents marked Soul Sanctuary ship w/steel found on office desk.
- Folder with billing from Abesco Ltd. for services to Soul Sanctuary.
- Files from drawer marked "9419 — Soul Sanctuary."
- Files from filing cabinet marked "9419 Soul Sanctuary."
When shown the photo obtained by CBC News of a door frame marked "Winnipeg Police Services H" at the Soul Sanctuary site, Kagan said her client doesn't know why the door frame was used in the church.
"The fact that this door frame has this writing on it has nothing to do with them [Soul Sanctuary] and they have never seen this photo," said Kagan.
"As part of the arrangement with Caspian my client was asked if Caspian could store materials and supplies from other job sites on their premises during the construction. And that is all my client is aware of in regard to the construction of the building and its relationship with Caspian."
The door frame "does look as though it is not being stored, it is actually standing upright," Kagan said. "That still does not in any way implicate Soul Sanctuary in any wrongdoing."
"It's standard in the industry to retrofit product, resell it. Therefore, it's not uncommon to have parts labelled for other job sites showing up different places," said Kagan, who was told by the Soul Sanctuary pastor that an unnamed construction professional had told him this.
Soul Sanctuary is a two-kilometre drive from Caspian, which is located on a 2.8-acre lot in a building zoned as a warehouse.
Church tiles appear similar to HQ
Tiles and carpet used in the church office and bathroom appear to be similar to those used in the new police headquarters.
Kagan said the church selected the tiles and flooring samples for the bathroom.
"They [the church executive] said if anything is the same, it would be a coincidence," she said. "They chose the colours and the material based on the use — high-traffic and easy to clean, hides the dirt."
Mountain was one of a series of companies linked to Caspian that was mentioned in the search warrant used to raid Caspian's office in December 2014.
A senior accounting assistant at Caspian told RCMP investigators, "Mountain Construction submitted invoices and progress claims to Caspian Projects for work done on the Winnipeg police headquarters for values in the millions of dollars," according to court documents.
She added, "Mountain invoices for different kinds of construction work but does not have employees."
None of the allegations against Caspian or Mountain have been proven in court.
Caspian Construction owner Armik Babakhanians declined a request for an interview.
When asked if RCMP is investigating Soul Sanctuary, RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Bert Paquet said this is still an ongoing case and police would not comment further on other potential investigations.
- This story has been updated from a previous version to clarify the reference to Mountain Construction. All references to Mountain Construction in the story relate to 4816774 Manitoba Ltd. operating as Mountain Construction, and not to Mountain Construction Inc., a company incorporated in 2014.Apr 25, 2016 1:57 PM CT