Arthur Porter changes mind and will fight extradition, lawyer says

Arthur Porter has changed his mind and will now fight extradition back to Canada to face fraud charges, lawyer Ricardo Bilonick Paredes says.

Arthur Porter's lawyer speaks to CBC News


8 years agoVideo
The CBC's Catherine Cullen reports from Panama City 1:42

Arthur Porter has changed his mind and will now fight extradition back to Canada where he is facing fraud charges, lawyer Ricardo Bilonick Paredes says.

Minutes after he left Porter's cell Thursday, Paredes told CBC News that the former CEO of Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) plans to oppose extradition from Panama.

Arthur Porter's lawyer, Ricardo Bilonick Paredes, speaks to CBC journalists in Panama City on Thursday. (CBC)
Porter had indicated on Wednesday that he did not intend to challenge the process, but his lawyer said the plan changed following consultations with his client.

"First he was not very happy, he was confused when I saw him the first time," said Paredes. 

"But when you have incidents like this you start thinking that you might examine your situation and decide what is the better option."

Paredes said he will attempt to file a bond to get Porter out of jail by Tuesday. He said Porter could soon be moved to a much larger and more crowded jail.

Diplomatic mission

Porter and his wife Pamela were arrested earlier this week at an airport hotel in Panama City.

He was wanted on an international warrant issued in February. He is facing charges of fraud and laundering the proceeds of a crime, as well as other allegations. Porter, who was once Canada's top spy watchdog, is accused of being at the heart of a fraud scandal involving the $1.3-billion MUHC superhospital project in Montreal, the largest of its kind in Canada.

Paredes said Porter and his wife were on their way to Antigua and Barbuda on a diplomatic mission to meet the leader of that country. Porter has long claimed to be a diplomat for his native country of Sierra Leone, and his lawyer said as a diplomat he should not have been arrested.

Paredes also said Porter is now requesting that his doctor from the Bahamas come to Panama to treat him. The 57-year-old oncologist diagnosed himself with stage 4 cancer earlier this year while living in Nassau, Bahamas, where he operated a clinic.

Porter's current state of health has been the subject of speculation since his arrest, and when asked how much time Porter had to live, Paredes replied, "What a better way to die than by fighting."

Lawyer smuggled drugs with Noriega

This is not the first time Paredes has made news outside of his own country.

In 1991, the former Panamanian ambassador told a U.S. Federal Court he acted as a middleman between deposed Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega and Colombian drug cartels in the 1980s.

Paredes, then known only as Ricardo Bilonick, admitted to passing millions of dollars in bribes to Noriega, in exchange for the ability to fly planes packed with tons of cocaine from Panama to the United States. The scheme was halted by U.S. agents in 1984.

His admissions were part of a plea agreement which reduced his sentence.