Manitoba

'Secret commission' and arson: RCMP police HQ investigation's latest allegations

From information about an arson call to a “secret commission,” the latest allegations about Winnipeg's police headquarters rocked city hall this past week.

After a CBC News investigation, Mayor Brian Bowman says he will call for a public inquiry

City's director of legal services says without extra funding it would "effectively end the opportunity for the City to seek recovery and accountability" from police HQ project. (CBC)

From information about an arson call to a "secret commission," the latest allegations about Winnipeg's police headquarters rocked city hall this past week.

Here's what you need to know about CBC's investigation:

'Secret commission'

Manitoba RCMP alleged the former head of Winnipeg's public service gave inside information about the city's new police headquarters to a firm that paid him $200,000.

In information provided to a judge as part of Project Dalton — the investigation into the construction of Winnipeg's police headquarters — the Mounties made breach-of-trust allegations against former Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl.

Police alleged the owner of Caspian Construction paid a secret commission to Sheegl for showing favour to him in the award of a contract to transform a former Canada Post complex into the new home of the Winnipeg Police Service.

RCMP also alleged Sheegl gave half the $200,000 payment to former Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz and labelled it a loan.

Sheegl resigned from the city in October 2013 and Katz left office in November 2014, after he chose not to seek a third term as mayor. 

Former City of Winnipeg CAO Phil Sheegl at city hall. (CBC)

Arson call leads police charred documents

On a rainy Sunday in June 2016, Winnipeg firefighters responded to reports of smoke inside a mostly vacant, 150,000-square-foot Regent Avenue building.

The structure is owned by a numbered company controlled by Armik Babakhanians, the president of Caspian Construction.

Firefighters found signs of a break-in and asked the Winnipeg Police Service to investigate. However, a few hours later, a police arson investigator called up an RCMP officer assigned to the investigation of the construction of the police headquarters.

In a sworn affidavit provided to a judge in order to obtain a search warrant for the building, RCMP Sgt. Breanne Chanel said she observed "what appeared to be a room filled with cardboard boxes." She also said she saw file folders which appeared to be filled with documents.

Firefighters responded to reports of smoke at this Transcona industrial building in June 2016. They suspected arson and called Winnipeg police, who notified RCMP of the presence of Caspian Construction documents. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Mayor to call for a public inquiry

Mayor Brian Bowman said he plans to officially ask the province to call a public inquiry after CBC revealed the new allegations.

"I take these allegations very, very seriously," said Bowman at a press conference called in response to the allegations revealed by the CBC News investigation.

"The new RCMP allegations that we're just learning today are the most seriously damaging to public trust at city hall to date. All members of your council have an obligation to do everything in our power to restore the public trust," Bowman added.

Manitoba's Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said an inquiry is not going to happen right now.

No charges have been laid to date and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

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