Ex-Liberal organizer found guilty of fraud, forgery, money laundering

Former Liberal organizer Jacques Corriveau has been found guilty on three fraud-related charges in connection with the federal sponsorship program.

Corriveau, 83, was charged with fraud against the government, forgery and laundering proceeds of crime between 1997 and 2003.

The verdict came down today on the fifth full day of jury deliberations.

The Crown alleged Corriveau set up a kickback system on contracts awarded during the sponsorship program and used his Pluri Design Canada Inc. firm to defraud Ottawa.

Corriveau, who worked on former prime minister Jean Chretien’s Liberal leadership campaigns, allegedly pocketed $6.5 million.

In his report released more than a decade ago, retired justice John Gomery, who headed the commission into the sponsorship scandal, described Corriveau as the “central figure” in an elaborate kickback scheme.

Crown prosecutor Jacques Dagenais accused Corriveau during the trial of facilitating sponsorship contracts that went to Groupe Polygone-Expour for the production of various publications and the organization of outdoor shows, while allegedly pocketing millions of dollars for himself between 1997 and 2003.

But defence lawyers said the testimony of key witnesses, including former Polygone president Luc Lemay, was unreliable and that the evidence failed to prove the contracts were awarded or renewed based on Corriveau’s influence.

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The verdict came down following five days of jury deliberations. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

They argued that while Corriveau may have held sway with prominent members of the Liberal Party, the Crown had failed to prove he used his position to secure any contracts.

Corriveau did not take the stand at the trial, which began in mid-September.

Corriveau also faced a charge of falsifying documents, which the Crown said included fake bills that were used to receive payment for services that were never rendered.

In his final instructions, Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-François Buffoni told the jurors that, in order to convict Corriveau, they would have to conclude he was not only influential but that he deliberately wielded his influence to secure some $6.5 million in “advantages and benefits” for himself.

An 11-year investigation

The events took place during the sponsorship program, which was intended to increase the federal government’s presence in Quebec after the No side’s slim victory in the 1995 sovereignty referendum.

The Gomery Commission, which looked into the program, found that firms were winning contracts based on donations to the federal Liberals, with little work being done.

Corriveau testified at the inquiry in 2005 and maintained his innocence throughout.

Gomery made it clear he was unconvinced, however, and his report laid much of the blame for the scandal on Corriveau.

“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, who was considered one of the highest-ranking federal Liberals in Quebec at one time, was charged in late 2013 after an 11-year investigation.

The RCMP alleged at the time that some of the money taken in by Corriveau ended up in the coffers of the Liberal Party of Canada while the rest went directly to the accused himself.

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