Former Roche VP and ex-Boisbriand mayor found guilty on corruption charges

A former Roche executive and ex-mayor of Boisbriand have been found guilty of several corruption-related charges relating to a cash-for-contracts scheme for a water-treatment facility.

France Michaud, ex-VP of engineering-consulting firm Roche, also found guilty

Robert Poirier, the former mayor of Boisbriand, has been convicted of several corruption-related charges in connection with the awarding of a contract for a water-treatment facility. (Radio-Canada)

A former Roche executive and ex-mayor of Boisbriand, Que., have been found guilty of several corruption-related charges relating to a cash-for-contracts scheme for a water-treatment facility.

France Michaud of Roche and ex-mayor Robert Poirier were found guilty of fraud and breach of trust at the St-Jérôme, Que., courthouse on Tuesday.

All of the crimes were related to the construction of a water-treatment plant in the the residential suburb on Montreal's north shore.

The judge said in his ruling that the court had established beyond any doubt there had been deals reached between the City of Boisbriand and the engineering firm. The evidence included fake bills, as well as evidence that Poirier had benefited from free tickets to sporting events and concerts. 

"There was basically evidence of a strategy of corruption and collusion for the divvying up of contracts in Boisbriand.  So the judgment rendered today recognized that, in fact, this sort of strategy was criminal, fell under the Criminal Code. Therefore, France Michaud and Robert Poirier were found guilty on most of the charges," Crown prosecutor Brigitte Bélair told reporters.

Meanwhile, Poirier was astonished by the verdict.

"I respected the law…  It's the provincial government which passed those laws. Those laws gave municipalities the choice (on contracts worth) $25,000 to $100,000 to choose whichever firm we wanted. Today I am being reproached for having always chosen the same firm, even though the law permitted me to do that," he said following the ruling.

Current Boisbriand mayor Marlene Cordato said she was pleased with the court's ruling, adding that it drove home the notion that the city was robbed.

"The role of my administration now is to try and recover the money that was stolen from us," Cordato said in a statement.

Boisbriand water-treatment plant runs deep

Michaud and Poirier were first arrested in 2011, along with ex-city councillor Claude Brière, the Boisbriand mayor who succeeded Poirier, Sylvie St-Jean, and engineers with the engineering firms Roche and BPR-Triax.

Lino Zambito — the star witness in Quebec's corruption inquiry, the Charbonneau Commission — was also arrested in the affair and pleaded guilty to six charges in 2015 (conspiracy to commit breach of trust, municipal corruption,
fraud over $5,000, conspiracy to commit fraud over $5,000, intimidation and fraud).

Giuseppe Zambito, Lino Zambito's father, was originally charged with fraud over $5,000, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of intimidation. 

Both were arrested as part of Opération Marteau (Operation Hammer) in 2011, the first major police operation targeting corruption and collusion.

A year later, Lino Zambito decided to work with investigators. Over several days, he explained to the Charbonneau commission how a cartel of companies split up contracts in Montreal and Laval.

Liberal MNA Nathalie Normandeau has also been linked to the scandal involving the Boisbriand water-treatment facility. 

Documents revealed last year showed that Normandeau, who was municipal affairs minister at the time, overruled senior bureaucrats to award the $11-million contract to engineering firm Roche.

The allegations of her involvement have not been proven in a court of law.