Provincial fisheries official charged with obstruction
Case against Peter Andrews linked to allegations against Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud
A New Brunswick government official has been charged with obstructing justice in connection with an investigation under the provincial Aquaculture Act.
Peter Andrews, 56, of Nasonworth, is the executive director of the corporate services division of the Department of Aquaculture, Agriculture and Fisheries.
He is accused of obstructing justice while in his role in relation to a charge under the Aquaculture Act in the fall of 2011, said RCMP Sgt. Greg Lupson.
Andrews is scheduled to appear in court in Fredericton on March 1.
The case is linked to an anonymous letter sent to the Opposition Liberals last year that accused Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud of interfering in an aquaculture investigation of his brother, Lupson confirmed.
"Yes, that's the same allegation, and the RCMP did receive information from a source within the government portfolio, and acted on that information," he told CBC News.
Lupson could not comment on whether Robichaud or any other officials are also under investigation.
Robichaud, who is also the minister responsible for economic development, has denied allegations that he pressured staff at the fisheries department not to prosecute his brother under the Aquaculture Act.
"I never interfered in any kind of way in the process, before and after. If I interfered, I didn't have a lot of success because he went to court," Robichaud had joked.
His brother, Donat Robichaud, pleaded guilty in April to a charge under the Aquaculture Act. He was ordered to pay a $480 fine and a 20 per cent victim fine surcharge.
But Lupson, speaking in generic terms, said a conviction doesn't disprove obstruction.
"'Obstructing justice' speaks to just that, an act by somebody that somehow obstructs a lawful investigation that is taking place," he said.
"The disposition of what happens in that case is not so key as the fact that the police, or the persons who are in authority to conduct the investigation, are doing just that, and somehow, that process is interfered with."
Department of Aquaculture, Agriculture and Fisheries officials have declined to comment on the matter and won't say if Andrews is still on the job.
He is, however, still listed as the executive director on the provincial government's website, as of Monday afternoon.
The manager in charge of enforcement in the fisheries department is Wilbert Sabine, who reports to Andrews.
Last April, Fisheries Minister Mike Olscamp had said enforcement officers in his department operate independently of political considerations.
"They do their job, they report to a supervisor who works here in Fredericton, and I would suspect that that is designed in that way to ensure that they are independent and free to do their job," Olscamp had said.
The RCMP began an investigation last spring after receiving information that someone within government may have interfered with an investigation being conducted under the provincial Aquaculture Act.
The deputy premier has said no one from his office had any contact with fisheries department supervisors or enforcement officers about the prosecution of his brother.
"I feel very comfortable with what I did, or I should probably say with what I did not do in this case. That is the reason why I will not resign, because I did nothing wrong regarding this case," Robichaud had said.