The RCMP has laid fraud-related charges against a Quebec businessman with close ties to former prime minister Jean Chretien in connection with the sponsorship scandal.
The Mounties announced Friday that they have served Jacques Corriveau with a summons to appear in court on charges of fraud on the government, forgery and laundering the proceeds of crime following a still-ongoing investigation into the management of the Quebec Sponsorship program of the mid-1990s.
The portion of the probe, dubbed Project Carnegie, that involved Corriveau began in 2006 and ended in 2010, culminating in the latest charges, RCMP Const. Erique Gasse told reporters in Montreal.
“It is alleged that Mr. Corriveau deposited in the coffers of the Liberal Party of Canada part of the funds he obtained through fraudulent activities, and that he kept the rest for his personal benefit,” the force said in a statement.
The sponsorship program was established following the 1995 Quebec referendum in an effort to promote federalism, particularly in the province. In 2002, then-auditor general Sheila Fraser found millions of dollars in contracts awarded to firms with Liberal ties for which little or no work was performed. A subsequent inquiry headed by Justice John Gomery found evidence of millions of dollars in kickback schemes that funnelled money back to the party.
In his final report, Gomery wrote that Corriveau was a key player in the sponsorship scheme.
"Jacques Corriveau was the central figure in an elaborate kickback scheme by which he enriched himself personally and provided funds and benefits to the (Quebec wing of the Liberal party)," Gomery wrote.
Corriveau and Chretien were long-time friends, and the businessman played key roles in Chretien’s leadership campaigns in 1984 and 1990.
Corriveau has long denied any wrongdoing. A spokesperson for the Liberals said Thursday that the party will not be commenting on the charges.
The RCMP alleges that Corriveau, now 80, “set up a kickback system on the contracts that were awarded in the Sponsorship program.”
The force also alleges that Corriveau “claimed that he could exercise influence on the federal government to facilitate the awarding of contracts to certain Quebec-based communication firms in return for several million dollars' worth of advantages and/or benefits for himself and other persons.”
The RCMP alleges that Corriveau facilitated the awarding of federal sponsorship contracts to Groupe Polygone-Expour to produce “various publications” and to organize hunting, fishing and other trade shows.
“Through this kickback system, Mr. Corriveau is believed to have received millions of dollars paid by Polygone-Expour to Pluridesign, a company that he owns,” the force said. “The money was allegedly used to pay for fictitious professional services described on bogus invoices.”
Police also allege that Corriveau claimed he could influence the federal government to ensure that Groupaction Marketing be given the task of managing contracts awarded to Group Polygone-Expour.
“The accused allegedly used false invoices to authenticate these so-called services.”
Groupaction was headed by Jean Brault, who was sentenced to more than two years in prison after he pled guilty to multiple counts of fraud in relation to the sponsorship scandal.
The Mounties say that they have also placed “restraint orders” on two of Corriveau’s investment accounts, as well as on his residence.
Corriveau is scheduled to appear in court on January 10.