The jurors at Jacques Corriveau’s fraud trial have been told they must decide whether the ex-federal Liberal organizer knowingly used his influence to secure himself millions of dollars in kickbacks.
As Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-Francois Buffoni delivered his final instructions Thursday at the Montreal courthouse, he stressed the jury must wade through the evidence carefully.
Corriveau, who was a very close friend of former prime minister Jean Chretien and worked on his campaigns, is charged with fraud against the government, forgery and laundering proceeds of crime.
The Crown alleged Corriveau, 83, set up a kickback system on government contracts awarded during the sponsorship program and used his Pluri Design Canada Inc. firm to defraud Ottawa.
Buffoni told the jurors that, to convict Corriveau, they must conclude he was not only influential, but that he deliberately wielded his influence to secure “advantages and benefits” for himself, totalling some $6.5 million.
“Did Mr. Corriveau know the benefits or advantages were in return for his influence?” Buffoni asked the jury.
“If you’re not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, you must find him not guilty.”
During the trial, the defence 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.
Defence lawyers argued the testimony of key witnesses was unreliable and that the evidence failed to prove the contracts were awarded or renewed based on Corriveau’s influence.
Corriveau did not take the stand at the trial, which began in mid-September.
The ex-Liberal organizer is also charged with falsifying documents, including invoices and service contracts, in order to legitimize the deals.
He also faces a money-laundering charge.
The sponsorship program 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 in 2005 at the inquiry, which ultimately led to the demise of the Liberals’ hold on power.
The eight men and four women on the jury are to be sequestered after Buffoni finishes delivering his instructions Thursday afternoon.