Police have charged a Canadian company hailed worldwide for its crime-fighting technology with corruption and fraud.
Montreal-based Ultra Electronics Forensic Technology Inc. and four of its executives are facing charges under the federal Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Criminal Code, the RCMP said in a statement Wednesday. The charges were laid after an investigation by the RCMP’s sensitive and international investigations section that began in 2018, the force said.
Robert Walsh, Philip Heaney, René Bélanger and Michael McLean, all residing in the Montreal area, were charged with bribery of a foreign public official and defrauding the public, the RCMP said. The company was charged with the same offences.
The RCMP alleges that the corporation and the accused individuals “directed local agents in the Philippines to bribe foreign public officials to influence and expedite” a multimillion-dollar contract. The police force provided no other details.
Ultra Electronics Forensic Technology is known as a key player in ballistics identification, and its products are used daily by law enforcement agencies around the world. The technology helps police cross-reference firearm and ammunition-related evidence from crime scenes by matching bullets and cartridge cases fired from the same gun.
The company launched as Walsh Automation Inc. in 1991 and was later bought by British defence contractor Ultra Electronics Holdings PLC in 2014. Its customers include the RCMP, the Australian Crime Intelligence Commission, and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to its website.
London, UK.-based Ultra Electronics Holdings disclosed as part of its half-year results report in July 2019 that it was investigating a “conduct of business issue” associated with the Philippines and that it was “keeping relevant authorities informed.” The company said Britain’s Serious Fraud Office was also continuing its investigation in a separate case involving Ultra in Algeria.
“Ultra has been investigating in full cooperation with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a historical bribery-related issue in the Philippines,” company spokeswoman Gabriella Colley said via email. The conduct in question occurred more than five years ago, and all of the individuals implicated have left the company over the past few years, she said.
Mr. Walsh did not respond to a phone message seeking comment. The Globe and Mail was not able to reach the other three executives.
These are the first charges under Canada’s Foreign Public Officials Act in two years, said Jennifer Quaid, an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa. That highlights the complex and slow-moving nature of such cases as well as the possibility that the police doing this work are understaffed, she said.
“It’s all well and good to have the nice shiny laws and to have things on the books but if there isn’t the money to do the investigations, it’s hard to make use of them,” Prof. Quaid said. Most outside observers say Canada has “less than optimal enforcement” for the nature of its export-based economy, she said.
The RCMP’s sensitive and international investigations section works on delicate, high-risk probes involving serious threats to government institutions, public servants and the integrity of the state, or those which it says could “jeopardize the political, economic and social integrity of Canada.”
The four individuals and representatives for the company are scheduled to appear in provincial court in Montreal on Sept. 28.