Canadian fraud probe draws in former hospital chief

3 March 2013 0 Comments

The former chief executive of a Montreal health authority who led the award of a major hospital construction project to Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin is being sought by Canadian police on charges of corruption.

Police have also made new corruption charges against ex-SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime and former executive vice president in charge of construction, Riadh Ben Aissa.

Canadian newspapers claim that the 27 February arrest warrant against Dr Arthur Porter (pictured below), now living in the Bahamas, alleges that he and a colleague accepted bribes from SNC-Lavalin in return for construction work.

Dr Porter was chief executive of McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and responsible for the CAN$1.3bn contract granted to SNC-Lavalin in 2010 to build a massive new hospital.

Credit: MUHC

Charges against Dr Porter and another MUHC executive, Yanai Elbaz, head of property development, included fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, participating in secret commissions and laundering proceeds of crime.

Charges against Mr Duhaime, already facing corruption charges, and Mr Ben Aissa, who is in prison in Switzerland awaiting trial over corruption charges, include fraud and forging documents.

A fifth man, Jeremy Morris, was also charged with fraud and laundering the proceeds of crime.

Dr Porter was chief executive of MUHC until 2011. He resigned after Canadian newspaper The National Post revealed secret business dealings involving soliciting Russian government funds for Sierra Leone, the country of Dr Porter’s birth. He left Canada in early 2012 and now resides in the Bahamas.

In September 2012 Montreal police raided MUHC’s offices, reportedly seeking evidence of financial irregularities.

In November, Mr Duhaime and Mr Ben Aissa were first charged – in Canada – with fraud.

Following the fresh wave of charges this week, Claudi Bussandri, chairman of the MUHC board, said in a statement: “As we have repeatedly stated, if any illegal behaviour took place, the individuals involved should be prosecuted. The alleged actions of Dr Porter and Mr Elbaz are clearly contrary to our values and our code of ethics. Please rest assured that we will continue to monitor the situation and assess our options, including legal action.”

Previously, McGill University had sued Dr. Porter over a low-interest loan it made to him. In January, courts awarded the university a default judgement for CAN$252,000.

In 2008 Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Dr Porter to the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, the body that oversees Canada's intelligence service.

Dr Porter, who runs a health clinic in the Bahamas, issued a statement on 27 February denying allegations of wrongdoing. In January he announced that he had diagnosed himself with lung cancer.