Arthur Porter, the former head of Canada's spy-agency watchdog and the onetime CEO of McGill University's hospital network, has been arrested in Panama on fraud charges.

Porter and his wife, Pamela, have been detained by Panamanian authorities, several months after Quebec police announced they wanted to charge him in connection with the province's ongoing corruption scandals.

The pair's arrest was announced in a statement Monday by Quebec's anti-corruption police watchdog, which said the  operation was carried out with the help of the RCMP, Interpol and Quebec provincial police.

"Extradition proceedings are being undertaken against the two," the statement said.

Porter, who received prestigious appointments from different levels of government and was nearly honoured with a street in his name, is accused of being at the heart of a scandal involving the $1.3-billion McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) mega-hospital project in Montreal, the largest of its kind in Canada.

Porter claimed to be in cancer treatment

Porter is a radiation oncologist and had been treating himself for terminal lung cancer in Nassau, Bahamas.

He previously told media that he had late, Stage 4 cancer and was too ill to travel to Canada.

Porter faces multiple charges, including:

  • Fraud.
  • Conspiracy to commit government fraud.
  • Abuse of trust.
  • Secret commissions.
  • Laundering the proceeds of a crime.

His wife is facing charges for laundering the proceeds of a crime and conspiracy.

Porter resigned as CEO of the MUHC in late 2011, less than a month after he resigned as chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which monitors the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), after his ties to a controversial lobbyist became public.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Porter's alleged criminal acts had nothing to do with the work he did for the government of Canada.

Warrants issued for Porter, 4 others

Last February, UPAC issued warrants for Porter and four other men suspected of conspiring to defraud the MUHC:

  • Former MUHC director Yanai Elbaz.
  • Former CEO of SNC-Lavalin Pierre Duhaime.
  • Former SNC-Lavalin employee Riadh Ben Aissa.
  • The still relatively unknown Jeremy Morris.

Around that time, the MUHC said it was cancelling plans to pave an "Arthur T. Porter Way" onto the hospital property.

A sixth man, Yohann Elbaz, was arrested in April on similar charges.

MUHC spokesman Ian Popple declined to comment on the extent of the case, saying only that "this is a police matter. Justice is following its course. The MUHC continues to co-operate with the authorities."

With files from The Canadian Press