Born in Sierra Leone, Arthur Porter, the former head of the MUHC and the national Security Intelligence Review Committee, was known for hosting lavish parties, for his dapper bow ties and eloquent speech. Dr. Porter wowed Montreal’s anglo upper crust with his networking and apparent ability to get the hospital project moving. Now a wanted and apparently sick man, Dr. Porter spends his days holed up in his Bahamas cancer clinic where, he says, he is trying to heal himself. Inoperable lung cancer has spread to his liver, he says. He says he has no immediate plan to return to Canada to face justice.
When he was named CEO of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. in 2009, Pierre Duhaime was seen as a steady hand to take hold of the tiller. The promotion of Mr. Duhaime, a company insider who made his name in metallurgy and mining, was seen as a triumph of a profitable corporate culture. He was also described as a fitting choice as the company looked to extend its global reach. Mr. Duhaime stepped down last year as the company investigated $56-million in mystery payments made for two projects, including the hospital. He now awaits trial at his Montreal home.
Riadh Ben Aissa
Born in Tunisia, Riadh Ben Aissa ran SNC’s worldwide construction wing and was known within the company as the man to put out fires when international projects got in trouble. Mr. Ben Aissa was accused last year of making millions of dollars in payments over the objections of corporate overseers. In a separate criminal investigation, Mr. Ben Aissa was arrested and detained in Switzerland in April, 2012, by prosecutors who are investigating his alleged role in paying an estimated $160-million in bribes to Saadi Gadhafi, the son of the late Libyan dictator. It’s unclear when he might return to Canada to face charges on the MUHC deal.
Yanai Elbaz, the MUHC’s former director of redevelopment, was the first of the five accused to face charges in court in Montreal this week, but it wasn’t the first time his name has been associated with corruption allegations. Mr. Elbaz was named at the Charbonneau corruption inquiry as a frequent guest of construction boss Paolo Catania at the exclusive 357c club. Mr. Catania is one of the lead figures accused of rigging the bidding system on Montreal public-works contracts. Mr. Elbaz was released on $150,000 bail while he awaits trial.
Jeremy Morris, a principal in Nassau-based Sierra Asset Management Inc., is one of the lesser-known figures in the MUHC-SNC scandal. SNC funnelled $22.5-million to the company, and SNC auditors were unable to find any evidence the company did any work for the money. Police allege the company was a front for
Of all the politicians with links to Arthur Porter, none have faced as many questions as Philippe Couillard, the former health minister and current front-runner to replace Jean Charest as Liberal leader in Quebec. Dr. Porter was a close ally and acquaintance, Dr. Couillard has admitted, but it’s clear he’s getting tired of the question, saying he too was “fooled.” Dr. Couillard has faced repeated questions about the consulting company he founded in 2010 with Dr. Porter (a company Dr. Couillard says never conducted any business activities) and a fishing trip the men took together at the invitation of the New Brunswick government. “It’s an attempt to discredit me for political reasons. I had relations with Dr. Porter that were no different than dozens of other people in Montreal. It has to stop at some point,” Dr. Couillard said following a recent campaign event.
The federal government has little direct role to play in the Montreal hospital project, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper was still drawn to Dr. Porter’s charms. There were garden parties at 24 Sussex Dr. in 2007 before a government-paid limousine ride in 2008 brought Dr. Porter from Montreal to the national capital and an appointment to the Privy Council and the Security Intelligence Review Committee, where Mr. Porter would be entrusted with sensitive matters of national security. In 2010, Mr. Harper made Dr. Porter chair of the committee. One year later Dr. Porter resigned from SIRC amid revelations he was involved in business in Sierra Leone with Ari Ben-Menashe, a former arms dealer based in Montreal. Mr. Harper has worked to distance himself ever since. “You know, I don’t know what to say,” Mr. Harper said during a visit to Rivière-du-Loup, Que., on Thursday. “I just point out that none of these matters relate to his work in his former federal responsibilities.”