Former CSIS watchdog boss Arthur Porter arrested on fraud charges

File - Arthur Porter, left, walks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Montreal General hospital on Nov.24, 2006. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL – The former head of Canada’s spy-agency watchdog, who received prestigious appointments from different levels of government and was nearly honoured with a street in his name, has been arrested abroad on fraud charges.

Arthur Porter has been detained by Panamanian authorities, along with his wife Pamela, several months after Quebec police announced they wanted to charge him in connection with the province’s ongoing corruption scandals.

The pair’s arrest was announced in a statement Monday by Quebec’s anti-corruption police watchdog, which said the operation was carried out with the help of the RCMP and Interpol.

“Extradition proceedings are being undertaken against the two,” the statement said.

Porter became head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which monitors the work of CSIS, two years after he was appointed to the watchdog by the Harper government in 2008.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Porter’s alleged criminal acts had nothing to do with the work he did for the Government of Canada.

At the same time that Porter held his federal role, he was director general of the McGill University Health Centre – which is now mired deep in scandals and the subject of multiple criminal charges.

He abruptly resigned from his federal post in November 2011, ultimately quitting his hospital role as well and leaving the country.

The Sierra Leone-born Porter faces charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud against the government, breach of trust, laundering the proceeds of crime, and participating in a secret commission. His wife faces charges of laundering criminal proceeds and conspiracy.

Porter is one of several people facing fraud-related charges stemming from the construction of the $1.3-billion McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, one of Canada’s biggest infrastructure projects, set to open in 2015. Others charged include the former head of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

Police announced the charges against Porter in February. A month later, the McGill University Health Centre said it was cancelling plans to pave an “Arthur T. Porter Way” onto the hospital property.

Porter had been managing director of a private cancer treatment centre in the Bahamas.

He told media that he had late, stage-four cancer and was too ill to travel to Canada.

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“I don’t want them to think I would chicken out on anything,” he told The Associated Press during an interview in February.

“So if they want to come here, absolutely no problem.”

The Dept. of Foreign Affairs issued a statement last Monday saying it was aware of reports that two Canadian citizens were arrested in Panama and that consular officials were ready to provide assistance as required. A department official said further details cannot be released due to privacy concerns.

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