Quebec's anti-corruption unit has made fraud allegations against five people previously involved with the McGill superhospital, Catherine Cullen reports
The embattled former head of the McGill University Health Centre is denying allegations contained in a warrant for his arrest issued by the Quebec anti-corruption unit.
In a statement released Wednesday evening, Arthur Porter said he was surprised by the allegations.
"I am surprised and angered on hearing this information via the press. Whilst I am certain there is no basis in fact, I have yet to see any documentation. Since I left Montreal in 2011, I have been subjected to scurrilous and scandalous allegations in the media.
However, I have never been contacted by the Montreal, Quebec or Canadian authorities in regard to this or any other matter. When I am provided with official information, it will be reviewed and appropriate action will be taken."
The embattled Porter — who once drew praise from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and was privy to some of Canada's most closely guarded secrets — is facing charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud toward the government, breach of trust, participating in secret commissions and laundering proceeds of crime.
Yanaï Elbaz arrested by anti-corruption squad
Suspects and charges they face:
Yanaï Elbaz: Fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud towards the government, breach of trust, participating in secret commissions, laundering proceeds of crime.
Jeremy Morris: Fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud towards the government, laundering proceeds of crime.
Arthur Porter: Fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud towards the government, breach of trust, participating in secret commissions, laundering proceeds of crime.
Pierre Duhaime: Fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, use of forged documents, fraud towards the government, participating in secret commissions, laundering proceeds of crime.
Riadh Ben Aïssa: Fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, use of forged documents, fraud towards the government, participating in secret commissions, laundering proceeds of crime.
Arrest warrants were issued this morning for Porter, Yanaï Elbaz, along with three other business associates, including Pierre Duhaime, a former head of engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group.
Quebec’s anti-corruption squad (UPAC) has confirmed Elbaz, the McGill University Health Centre’s (MUHC) former director of redevelopment, planning and real estate management, has been arrested.
Elbaz was wanted on charges of fraud, conspiracy, fraud towards the government, breach of trust, participating in secret commissions and laundering proceeds of crime.
Anne-Frédérique Laurence, a spokeswoman for UPAC, said Elbaz is at the provincial police’s headquarters for an interrogation.
She said he is to make a court appearance tomorrow, along with Duhaime.
MUHC board may consider legal action
Wednesday, the MUHC's board chairman issued a statement saying the board would closely follow the situation and its options, including the possibility of legal action.
"The alleged actions of Dr. Porter and Mr. Elbaz are clearly contrary to our values and our code of ethics," said Claudio Bussandri.
"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."
SNC-Lavalin also responded to the warrant for the arrest of its two former employees — Duhaime and Riadh Ben Aïssa — saying the company would fully co-operate with authorities.
"We are unequivocal that no unethical behaviour or illegal acts must ever be tolerated," said Lilly Nguyen, spokeswoman for SNC-Lavalin.
"We believe anyone found to have committed any wrongdoing in connection should be brought to justice."
This is not the first time dealings between the MUHC and SNC-Lavalin have come under suspicion. In November, two senior executives at the engineering firm were charged with fraud in connection with a new MUHC hospital project. Porter oversaw that project.
Porter resigned from his post as head of the MUHC in December 2011 after questions were raised about his business dealings.
He left Canada in 2012 to live in the Bahamas where he operates a health clinic.
Last November, McGill University launched a lawsuit against Porter for allegedly failing to repay more than $285,000 the institution had lent him.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
In January, Porter diagnosed himself with inoperable lung cancer.
Duhaime, Ben Aïssa, also in trouble with law
Duhaime was arrested in November 2012 and appeared in court on Feb. 11 accused of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and for producing false documents.
The charges he faces today are not related to the ones laid in 2012.
Duhaime is scheduled to be back in court on May 23 to answer to allegations that he created false documents in relation to a $1.3-billion contract for the construction of the MUHC's new campus.
He was removed from his duties at SNC-Lavalin in March 2012 after an independent investigation suggested he had approved money transfers worth $56 million to two unidentified people.
At the time, SNC-Lavalin said Duhaime had "retired."
Ben Aïssa, on the other hand, is being detained in Switzerland in connection with suspected corruption, fraud and money laundering in connection to projects in North Africa.
According to RCMP documents, Ben Aïssa allegedly bribed the son of now-deceased dictator Moammar Gadhafi with $160 million for a contract in Libya.