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Canada Anti-corruption probe focuses on Liberal fundraising event

Court documents shows the police anti-corruption squad was mainly interested in a fundraiser in a Quebec City restaurant featuring former deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau on Oct. 9, 2008.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

The Quebec Liberals say they are co-operating with a police investigation seeking evidence of an illegal political financing scheme in which donations to the party would have been exchanged for lucrative public contracts.

Court documents about the investigation were obtained by a consortium of media organizations including Le Devoir, La Presse and Radio Canada.

The documents stem from a July, 2013, raid conducted on Liberal headquarters while most of the province's media were focused on the explosion and fire of a train in Lac Mégantic, Que.

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Media reports say those heavily censored documents show the provincial police anti-corruption squad was mainly interested in a fundraiser in a Quebec City restaurant that featured former deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau on Oct. 9, 2008.

La Presse and Radio Canada also reported that the documents show the raid was initially scheduled for June, 2012 – just before the Charest Liberals called an election – but it was postponed for "operational" reasons, and delayed for more than a year.

A party spokeswoman has denied that any political interference caused the delay. So has the province's anti-corruption police unit, known as UPAC.

"UPAC is apolitical. We categorically deny that there was political interference," said UPAC spokeswoman Anne-Frederick Laurence.

"Things can happen during the process, and that can change the investigation strategy. Without getting into the details it could for instance mean that, for example, new information has come to our attention."

A statement on the Liberals' website said the party is co-operating with the investigation by UPAC. The party says a Liberal government created UPAC, a public inquiry on corruption and several new laws to combat illicit financing.

"On behalf of the 53,000 members of our party that are involved across the province to advance Quebec, we want light to be shed on this," the unsigned statement says, concluding that those who broke the law will answer for it. "If, at the end of the investigation, it is shown that individuals have committed acts that do not respect the law, they will suffer the consequences and be held accountable," it said.

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Earlier this month, Quebec's director-general of elections announced it had issued eight fines for five people stemming from the event with Ms. Normandeau, a case involving engineering firms and people who posed as legitimate private donors. In September, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard revealed that he met investigators in the wee hours of the morning at his home, answering their questions about the mechanics of the party.

At the time, the Liberal leader said none of his current MNAs had been questioned by police and he was not the focus of the investigation.

No charges have been laid.

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