Nathalie Normandeau's lawyer questions Crown's evidence

The lawyer for Quebec's former deputy premier who was arrested this week in an anti-corruption probe is questioning why it took investigators so long to decide to press charges.

Maxime Roy said the both the length of the investigation and the timing of Normandeau's arrest raise questions

Former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister Nathalie Normandeau is pictured at the Charbonneau inquiry in 2014. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Nathalie Normandeau's lawyer is questioning why it took investigators so long to decide to press charges against the former deputy premier.

Maxime Roy said the both the length of the investigation and the timing of the arrest — on the same day as a provincial budget — raise questions about the quality of the Crown's evidence.

"It took four years to investigate," Roy told Radio-Canada Friday morning. "The evidence against her can't be as solid as they say." 

The head of the provincial anti-corruption unit, Robert Lafrenière, told Radio-Canada earlier on Friday that the Crown would not have moved forward with the charges unless they were confident about their evidence.

Nathalie Normandeau's lawyer, Maxime Roy, said his client was surprised when police showed up at her door Thursday morning. (Radio-Canada)

He said it wasn't unusual for cases involving financial crimes to take a long time. 

Normandeau was arrested Thursday and charged with corruption, breach of trust and conspiracy. Also arrested were her former chief of staff, Bruno Lortie, two former Parti Québécois staffers and several figures associated with engineering firm Roche (now known as Norda Stelo).

Roy characterized the charges against his client as an allegation that she abused her political power to steer contracts towards Roche, which he said "never happened."

Police investigators arrived with arrest warrants at Normandeau's home in Quebec City early Thursday morning. She left police headquarters by a side door and hasn't been seen publicly since. 

'Shocked, surprised and sad'

Roy described Normandeau as being "shocked, surprised and sad" when police showed up at her door. She grew more combative later in the day, he said, after receiving messages of support from friends and former constituents.

"We had no indication that there was an investigation ongoing," Roy said.

He said Normandeau had approached the anti-corruption unit, UPAC, prior to the Charbonneau Commission, but UPAC declined to meet with her .   

In preparing her testimony before the commission, Roy said he reviewed several years of decisions taken by Normandeau as a cabinet minister in the government of Jean Charest. 

"Her answers convinced me she did nothing wrong criminally." 

Normandeau is next scheduled to make a court appearance on April 20.