MONTREAL – Former Liberal organizer Jacques Corriveau’s conviction on three fraud-related charges marks the end of the criminal cases linked with the federal sponsorship scandal, a Crown prosecutor said Tuesday.
A jury found Corriveau guilty of fraud against the government, forgery and laundering proceeds of crime between 1997 and 2003.
Corriveau, who worked on ex-prime minister Jean Chretien’s Liberal leadership campaigns, was accused of illegally pocketing $6.5 million by using his Pluri Design Canada Inc. firm to defraud Ottawa in contracts awarded during the sponsorship program.
“It’s the last chapter (of the sponsorship scandal),” Crown prosecutor Jacques Dagenais told reporters after the verdict. “The book is closed.”
Dagenais said it was important that Corriveau be judged by a jury.
“As in all the cases involving the sponsorship scandal, and we’re going back to the first charges in 2006, it was important, given that it was a scandal that touched taxpayers, that at the end of the day it was taxpayers who were the judges in this,” he said.
A date is expected to be set Friday for sentencing arguments.
The judge who headed the commission into the sponsorship scandal described Corriveau in his report about 10 years ago as the “central figure” in an elaborate kickback scheme.
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.
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-Francois Buffoni told the jury 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.
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 in 2005 at the inquiry and maintained his innocence throughout.
Justice John Gomery made it clear, however, he was unconvinced, 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.