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UPAC's file on former Quebec Liberal Party fundraiser reveals why Jean Charest's confidant under microscope

The documents, now public, neatly assemble statements from executives at some of Quebec's largest firms, many of whom allege Jean Charest's close confidant, Marc Bibeau, was at the top of a system of campaign finance corruption.

Documents provide rationale for investigation into illegal political donations

Marc Bibeau was targeted in the context of an investigation for fraud against the government, breach of trust and for illegal political donations. (CBC)

A trove of information gathered by the provincial anti-corruption unit about the Quebec Liberal Party's former top fundraiser can now be made public, following the Supreme Court's refusal Thursday to hear a request for a publication ban.

The documents include general warrants and witness statements and detail why the anti-corruption squad, UPAC, wanted to conduct secret searches of the offices of companies owned by Marc Bibeau in 2016.

No material was seized. Neither Bibeau nor anyone else has been charged in connection with the UPAC investigation, known as Operation Mâchurer.

Bibeau's battle in the courts to block the documents from being made public ended Thursday when the Supreme Court of Canada rejected his appeal of a lower court decision.

Operation Mâchurer's goal was to establish a link between illegal political financing and the awarding of public contracts by the Quebec government in the years that it was led by Jean Charest's Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ). No charges have been laid in relation to the investigation.

Much of the material in the documents has been published before — and in fact, that was the Court of Quebec's reason for denying Bibeau's initial request for a publication ban.

But the documents neatly assemble statements from executives at some of Quebec's largest firms — including some who had already testified before the provincial corruption inquiry, the Charbonneau commission — many of whom recount tales of systematic campaign finance corruption and of Bibeau's close ties to the provincial Liberals' top officials, including Charest.

Quebec Superior Court Justice France Charbonneau led an inquiry into corruption in the province's construction industry that examined illegal political party financing, collusion among engineering firms and organized crime's tentacles in the industry. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

The documents indicate that Bibeau was targeted in the context of an investigation for fraud against the government, breach of trust and for illegal political donations.

They show that, in addition to Bibeau, the main people targeted by UPAC in this part of the investigation were Violette Trépanier, the former director of finance for the PLQ, and Pierre Bibeau, the former vice-president of Loto-Québec.

Several of these people identify Marc Bibeau as the person in charge of "sectoral funding" at the PLQ and say that were given "funding targets" for their businesses.

Former PLQ officials previously connected Bibeau's name to line 127 of a document listing the donations collected in Quebec's 125 ridings. A sum of $428,150 was entered there.

Robert Parent, the QLP's former executive director, notably told the police that line 127 referred to "sectoral" funding, that is, sums collected from businesses. Such donations are illegal under Quebec electoral law.

Serge Daigle, a senior PLQ official, also told the police that Marc Bibeau was in charge of sectoral funding, along with finance director Trépanier, and that the party could raise $3 to $4 million over 4 years.

Lino Zambito, the former vice-president of Infrabec, was a key witness at the Charbonneau commission of inquiry into corruption in Quebec's construction industry. (Kalina Laframboise/CBC)

Among the other statements reported in the documents:

  • Pierre Anctil, a former SNC-Lavalin vice-president, said that SNC-Lavalin CEO Jacques Lamarre explained to him in 2005 that his position included funding political parties.
  • George Dick, a former president of RSW, an engineering firm, claimed that Bibeau told him in 2002 that firms interested in contracts with Hydro-Québec had paid between $60,000 and $80,000 to the PLQ. Dick said Bibeau claimed he would be able to influence the ''awarding of contracts by Hydro-Québec." Dick said that he refused and considered that it amounted to influence peddling. (According to the Charbonneau commission's report, testimony heard did not allow it to conclude that Hydro-Québec's process for awarding private contracts led to embezzlement. The head of Hydro-Québec has denied that the premier's office could influence contracts.)
  • Claudio Vissa, a former vice-president of RSW, told police Bibeau and Jean Charest were "like brothers." He said he considered Bibeau's dealings with him and Dick to be a form of intimidation.
  • Luc Benoît, the former CEO of Tecsult, said Bibeau met him on Jan. 13, 2005 at the Dorval Hilton and suggested that he could change a cabinet minister's mind on a matter related to the extension of the Metro into Laval.
  • Lino Zambito, the former vice-president of Infrabec, claimed that Bibeau told him in September 2009 that he was "one of five people in the war room" that chooses cabinet ministers. Zambito also said a project in Boisbriand that was being held up moved ahead after Bibeau contacted Charest's chief of staff, Dan Gagnier.

None of the businessmen said they received contracts in exchange for political donations. Rather, they argue that they made the donations for networking purposes.

'Unverified allegations and hearsay'

Bibeau's law firm released a statement Thursday in response to the Supreme Court decision.

"As a reminder, Mr. Bibeau had filed an application for leave to appeal in order to preserve his rights and his reputation against media coverage of unverified allegations based on hearsay," the statement says.

"Mr. Bibeau wishes to reaffirm his integrity and maintains that he will continue to assert his rights. His political activity has always been done willingly, voluntarily, out of personal conviction and in accordance with the law."

Bibeau's various legal moves are one of the main reasons why Operation Mâchurer, first revealed by Radio-Canada in November 2014, has still not been completed.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada

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