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Former Liberal organizer Jacques Corriveau arrives to hear closing arguments in his trial on Oct. 25, 2016, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Former Liberal organizer Jacques Corriveau arrives to hear closing arguments in his trial on Oct. 25, 2016, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Jacques Corriveau found guilty on three fraud-related charges Add to ...

More than 10 years after being described as the “central figure” in an elaborate and lucrative sponsorship kickback scheme, a man once close to ex-prime minister Jean Chretien was convicted on three fraud-related charges.

A jury found Jacques Corriveau, 83, guilty on Tuesday after a trial in which the Crown alleged he pocketed $6.5 million by using his firm to defraud Ottawa in contracts awarded during the sponsorship program.

Crown prosecutor Jacques Dagenais suggested the prospects of recovering the entire sum from the former federal Liberal organizer are slim.

“Less than $1 million, excluding his residence, has been found,” Dagenais told reporters after the guilty verdicts were handed down.

Both the money and the home will be the subject of confiscation requests when sentencing arguments take place, he added.

The crimes occurred 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.

Corriveau worked on Chretien’s Liberal leadership campaigns and was considered one of the highest-ranking federal Grits in Quebec at one time.

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 maintained his innocence when he took the stand at the inquiry in 2005.

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.

Dagenais said the conviction marks the end of the criminal cases linked with the sponsorship scandal, which eventually helped bring down the Liberal government in 2006.

“It’s the last chapter,” he said. “The book is closed.”

Dagenais underlined the importance of Corriveau being 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.

Corriveau did not testify during his trial.

A date is expected to be set Friday for sentencing arguments.

Asked what sentence he will seek, Dagenais said, “I will reserve that exclusive news for the court” before he added, “there are not many crimes in the Criminal Code that don’t call for imprisonment.”

Corriveau’s lawyer, Gerald Souliere, wouldn’t tell reporters either what he would ask for his client.

“We’ll make representations to the court to try and get him the best sentence,” he said.

Souliere added his client is “very affected” by the verdict and, “considering his age, it’s very difficult to react otherwise.”

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 pocketing millions of dollars for himself between 1997 and 2003.

The defence countered that the testimony of key witnesses, including that of 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.

One of the charges against Corriveau related to the falsification of 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.

Corriveau was charged in late 2013.

In Ottawa, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was asked Tuesday whether he believes the conviction marks the end of the sponsorship scandal.

“Well, the law needs to follow its course,” he said. “Those who have violated the law need to face the full consequences. ”I don’t comment on any specific case — that’s not appropriate for a minister — but the law is the law and no one is above the law.“

— With files from Julien Arsenault

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