Saskatchewan

No charges laid in GTH land deal investigation: RCMP

The RCMP says it will not be laying any charges after completing its investigation into the Global Transportation Hub land deal that has been the centre of controversy for years.

Police launched the investigation in February 2016

Sask. RCMP says it will update the public on the now-completed investigation into the Global Transportation Hub land deal Wednesday. (CBC)

The RCMP says it will not be laying any charges after completing its investigation into the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) land deal that has been the centre of controversy for years.

"The evidence does not support the laying of criminal charges. As a result, the RCMP is no longer investigating this matter," RCMP Supt. Paul Saganski said at a news conference in Regina Wednesday afternoon.

Saganski said the RCMP, in consultation with Manitoba Prosecution Services, determined "there is not evidence to support criminal charges" in relation to the land deals.

"As the investigating police agency, our responsibility was to determine if any criminal wrongdoing took place, setting aside perception and publicity and focusing on the evidence," he said at Wednesday's press conference.

'Extensive and wide-ranging investigation'

The decision comes after what Saganski calls an "extensive and wide-ranging investigation," that looked at multiple land transactions that took place between March 2012 and April 2014.

In February 2016, CBC reported how two businessmen made millions on a series of land deals that saw 204 acres of land wind up the hands of the government-owned GTH for far more than appraisals said it was worth. 

A subsequent review by the Provincial Auditor Judy Ferguson found the GTH overpaid for the land and failed to have the appropriate policies in place. As a result, Ferguson found, the land was procured "at a significantly higher price and not in a financially responsible manner."

Saskatchewan RCMP launched its investigation in February of 2016. Late last year RCMP sent the results of its investigation to prosecutors in Manitoba for review. Manitoba prosecutions returned the file to the RCMP on April 5. 

Saganski said the Manitoba prosecutors' review ended with a recommendation that no criminal charges be laid.

"This was a highly complex and multi-layered investigation spanning two years of financial transactions and land dealings involving multiple parties," Saganski told reporters at a press conference.

He said over forty people were interviewed in relation to the investigation with some of them being re-interviewed, and thousands of pages of documents were examined.

Saganski estimated the RCMP devoted 1,000 days of police labour to working on this case.

Government, opposition respond

Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili acknowledged the work the RCMP did in the investigation, but said the people of Saskatchewan "deserve answers."

"Millions of dollars have been wasted, taxpayers have been ripped off, nuns have been ripped off," he said to reporters Wednesday.

"The government has been anything but forthright, in fact they've been dishonest along the way and its clearly time for a judicial inquiry."

Justice Minister Don Morgan told reporters shortly after the NDP leader's statement that he is confident in the RCMP's investigation and he doesn't see a need for a further inquiry into the matter.

Deputy Premier Gord Wyant had previously called for an inquiry into the province's role in the multi-million dollar land deal.

"I think it's important that we clear the air," Wyant said in September 2017.

"I think it's very important that the people of Saskatchewan get the answers that they deserve on this matter."

Morgan said Wednesday he can't speak for his colleague, but believes it is now "time to turn the page."

Morgan did admit that despite the RCMP's conclusion, there were "certainly mistakes made in our government's handling of this matter."

Morgan said the government moved too slowly, which allowed "speculators to move in, buy the land and resell it at a much higher cost to taxpayers than we would have paid had we acted sooner."

"The GTH is an important project that has created hundreds of jobs and improved market access in Saskatchewan," he said.

"In retrospect, it's probably not a business that government should have been involved in. But we are, and we have to deal with it."

With files from Geoff Leo