Quebec's Chief Electoral Officer has charged five people for thousands of dollars worth of illegal donations to former Quebec Liberal Party deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau.
The illegal financing was done at an Oct. 2008 event, reads a news release from the elections watchdog.
The people named were allegedly involved in a straw man, or prête-nom, scheme in which they donated money to the party with money other than their own.
The people being fined by the director-general of elections are:
- Normand Lefebvre, director of Pluritec Ltd.
Three infractions for helping three employees make three contributions of $1,000
- Michel Perrault, Mascouche
Two infractions for helping Yanick Dion and Lucien Laroche contribute $2,500 each
- Yanick Dion, Montreal
One infraction for donating $2,500
- Réjean Bergevin, Laval
One infraction for helping Martin Lord donate $1,500
- Carole Archambault, Laval
One infraction for donating $1,500
Each accused has 30 days to respond to elections officials.
Normandeau told Radio-Canada that she had no connection to the fundraising scheme.
"Not only is this affirmation false, but all the Liberal fundraising events I took part in, I did only as a guest speaker," she said.
"This is a serious accusation — my reputation, and my integrity are at stake," she said.
Her lawyers are also working to get her name removed from the Chief Electoral Officer's press release.
According to a Radio-Canada exclusive report released last month, the former deputy premier and MNA for the Bonaventure riding in the Gaspé was targeted in a search conducted last July by Quebec’s anti-corruption squad, UPAC.
Last year, ex-construction boss and Charbonneau commission star witness Lino Zambito named Normandeau at the corruption inquiry.
During his testimony, Zambito alleged that Normandeau accepted bribes from him and said he organized a fundraising event for her in in January 2008 in Laval. It was attended largely by his peers in the construction and engineering business, who paid $5,000 a head for the dinner that he said Normandeau herself attended. The law at the time limited individual donations to $3,000 for each candidate and party.
Normandeau vigorously denied Zambito’s assertion that she could be swayed by bribes Zambito gave her, like Céline Dion concert tickets. Zambito said she and her friends attended the concert in Zambito’s family’s private box at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Each person named today by the director-general of elections will be fined $500 on top of the amount of their donation. If they plead guilty or are convicted, they will not be permitted to win public contracts held by the director-general for a period of three years.
Couillard questions links to Normandeau
Liberal leader Philippe Couillard sought to shield Normandeau from the Chief Electoral Officer's latest fines. He said her presence at the 2008 event does not mean that she had anything to do with the straw man scheme.
"People donating money have been sanctioned by the [Chief Electoral Officer] following an event that involved her presence," he told reporters. "It doesn’t mean that she herself was personally involved or she has anything to account for. There’s an important distinction."
Couillard also reminded reporters that it was the Liberals who brought in a law banning straw man schemes in 2011.