The administrator of the mysterious company that is said to be behind the alleged $22.5-million fraud at Montreal’s massive new hospital complex was arrested Monday at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport after arriving from the Bahamas.
Jeremy Morris, a resident of the Bahamas who, two sources say, is registered in official Bahamian documents as the principal behind a company called Sierra Asset Management, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.
Investigators allege that SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., the engineering giant that was selected to design and build the new hospital, funnelled a number of payments through Sierra Asset Management to hospital officials, including its former chief executive Arthur Porter, after it was awarded the contract.
Sources close to the probe have described Mr. Morris as a “straw man,” someone who on paper is the principal of Sierra. Investigators say the company was incorporated to disguise the flow of money from SNC-Lavalin to officials with the McGill University Health Centre.
A spokeswoman for the anti-corruption task force, which is made up of police officers from various agencies, said she could not comment about why Mr. Morris travelled to Montreal. A warrant for his arrest was issued two weeks ago, after investigators laid more than a dozen fraud and corruption-related charges against two former high-ranking executives from SNC, as well as Dr. Porter and the hospital network’s former head of planning, Yanai Elbaz.
Of the five people accused in the alleged bribery conspiracy, only one is still at large – Dr. Porter. The former chief administrator of the hospital network has said in interviews with a number of media outlets that he has stage-four lung cancer and is too sick to leave his gated community in the Bahamas.
He has called the charges “scurrilous and scandalous,” but has declined to discuss the details of the criminal charges.
Before Dr. Porter left Montreal in late 2011, he had served in several prominent public- and private-sector posts. In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed him to the civilian committee that is responsible for overseeing Canada’s spy agency – an appointment that resulted in Dr. Porter being made a member of the Queen’s Privy Council.
Since the criminal charges were laid, several opposition politicians have called on the Prime Minister to explain why he picked Dr. Porter to serve on the committee – the Security Intelligence Review Committee. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has called on the Prime Minister to remove his status as a Privy Council officer.
Mr. Harper has declined to answer how he came to select Dr. Porter, and said that the allegations against him have nothing to do with his duties on the committee.