Quebec’s anti-corruption unit drops probe into Liberal Party’s financing after 8 years

UPAC Commissioner Frédérick Gaudreau defends his anti-corruption unit as he presents his annual report, during a news conference, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot. jqb

Quebec’s anti-corruption squad has put an end to its multi-year investigation into the finances of the province’s Liberal Party.

Frédérick Gaudreau, the head of the the commissaire à la lutte contre la corruption (UPAC), announced the decision Monday, about eight years after the probe was launched in 2014.

The specialized police force was looking into the Quebec Liberal Party’s financing spanning from 2001 to 2012.

Operation Mâchurer specifically investigated whether criminal offences had been committed when it came to the party’s financing during that period of time.

Gaudreau said in a statement that after meeting with more than 300 witnesses since 2014, UPAC  submitted the case to Quebec’s Crown prosecutors office (DPCP).

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The DPCP then handed the file to be reviewed by a retired justice from the Quebec Court of Appeals.

“Considering the legal opinion obtained, as well as all the rigour and resources already invested in this investigation, (UPAC) found that there is no reason to pursue it and therefore puts an end to it,” said Gaudreau.

In a statement, the province’s Crown prosecutors office said that it provides legal advice to police forces when requested, but ultimately it is up to the latter whether or not to continue an investigation.

The DPCP also said that legal opinion it provided remains confidential, citing lawyer-client privilege.

“Consequently, the DPCP cannot provide additional information on the content of the legal opinion given to UPAC,” it said.

Click to play video: 'UPAC considers name change after history of scandal'
UPAC considers name change after history of scandal

In 2020, former premier Jean Charest sued the provincial government for violating his privacy in connection with UPAC’s investigation into the Quebec Liberal Party when he was leader and premier. He alleged that confidential information about him and his family has been leaked to the media in recent years.

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The end of the investigation comes as Charest is being courted to jump back into federal politics. Last week, four Conservative MPs published an open letter, urging Charest to enter the race for the party’s leadership.

Charest issued a brief statement on Monday afternoon, saying the UPAC investigation “weighed very heavily” in his personal life, the life of his family, his political colleagues and his co-workers.

“The pursuit of this investigation made no sense and has been for me and my family an injustice that lasted for almost eight years,” he said.

“My family and I wish to thank our advisors, colleagues and friends who never ceased to support us.”

Charest said he will not be making any further comments about the case. He also did not address any potential return to politics.

Meanwhile, the current leader of the Quebec Liberals shared the news of the investigation being dropped on social media. Dominique Anglade called on UPAC to issue an apology to the party’s members, politicians and volunteers.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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