'Absolutely no evidence:' Former Innu partnership CEO Paul Rich acquitted of fraud

"He had permission to take the money,” Justice Frances Knickle said in making her ruling Thursday.

A supreme court judge excused the jury Thursday, saying Rich had permission to take money

Paul RIch (left) hugs supporters after being acquitted of a charge of fraud Thursday morning (Jacob Barker/CBC)

A former chief executive officer of the Innu Development Limited Partnership, Paul Rich, has been acquitted of fraud charges.

Supreme Court Justice Frances Knickle ruled Thursday that there was not enough evidence to continue with the court hearing in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Rich was charged after an audit and subsequent RCMP investigation showed he had been paid nearly $1.5 million in salary, bonuses, and incentives between 2008 and 2012 without proper authority from the board of directors.

However, testimony from board member Simeon Tsakapesh Tuesday showed that Rich did have permission to take the funds.

There's been absolutely no evidence that this was done by way of deceit, fraud or dishonesty.- Justice Frances Knickle

Rich's lawyer, Rosellen Sullivan said conversations with the other board members set to testify supported Tsakapesh's testimony.

"It became apparent that … the monies Mr. Rich did obtain were not done deceitfully," Sullivan told the CBC.

"There might, in the meeting, not have been strict compliance with filling out the board minutes but there was authority," Sullivan said. "People were aware this was happening."

Sullivan hugs Rich after the verdict. She says he was relieved and that clearing his name means 'everything' to him. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Judge Knickle excused the jury after the Crown said Thursday it would be calling no further evidence and the defence asked for a directed verdict. Knickle agreed and acquitted Rich of the offence.

"I don't think there's any dispute that Mr. Rich obtained monies from IDLP," Knickle said.

"There's been absolutely no evidence that this was done by way of deceit, fraud or dishonesty. In fact the only piece of evidence that's been called upon at that point is that he had permission to take the money."

Supreme Court Justice Frances Knickle acquitted Paul Rich of the fraud charge Thursday morning. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"All I can say is that over the passage of time, what we knew in 2012 is different than what we know today in 2018," Crown prosecutor Jennifer Standen said.

"We did not have any evidence before the court or could not offer any evidence to the court or more rightly to the jury about the element of fraud."

Crown prosecutor Jennifer Standen agreed that she couldn't offer any evidence to the court about the element of fraud. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Sullivan said clearing his name means "everything" to Rich.

"It's been on the go for six years and it's been a big part of his life," she said.

"Obviously, he's very relieved."

About the Author

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker reports on Labrador for CBC News from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.