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In what kind of country can a man see his reputation and his career destroyed by the concerted actions of state officials, the state police, prominent lawyers and a renowned legal-accounting firm, for the simple reason that he had refused to cave in to a request for patronage from the prime minister?

Fortunately, Canada isn't yet a police state. It still has an independent judiciary. Three weeks ago, Quebec Superior Court Justice André Denis cleared the name of François Beaudoin, the former president of the Business Development Bank of Canada, and severely blamed his tormentors -- namely Jean Carle, a vice-president of the BDC and former director of operations of Jean Chrétien's office, and Michel Vennat, whom Prime Minister Paul Martin suspended without pay last week from his job as president of the bank.

Mr. Vennat, a renowned Liberal lawyer and close friend of Mr. Chrétien who headed the Council for Canadian Unity in the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty, is incommunicado. He is expected to give his own version of the events today.Mr. Beaudoin's story is arguably the most troubling part of the string of scandals that is sullying the legacy of Jean Chrétien: Unlike the sponsorship affair, it's not only about the misuse of public funds; it is also a matter of human dignity -- a rare case where some of the country's most powerful people ganged up on a man whose only crime had been to uphold the professional standards of a state-owned bank. It certainly represents the worst abuse of power that happened under Mr. Chrétien's reign.

It all started in 1996 and 1997, with then-prime minister Chrétien's repeated request for a loan to the Auberge Grand-Mère, owned by a constituent and former associate of Mr. Chrétien. When the owner of the Grand-Mère requested additional money in 1999, after missing payments on the original loan, Mr. Beaudoin did not oblige.

Soon, Mr. Vennat and Mr. Carle were appointed to the board of the BDC and the war began, intensifying when the story of the Grand-Mère loan broke out in the media. Mr. Beaudoin was pushed into resigning (Mr. Vennat then stepped into his job as CEO).

The bank refused to honour Mr. Beaudoin's contract and he was left with no severance pay and no pension. Eventually, he was accused of having defrauded the bank and after the affair reached the court, his name was dragged in the mud for months.

Two intensive searches were made of his house and cottage, one of them supervised by Eric Simard, the bank's lawyer and a top Liberal activist, who once had a joint bank account with Mr. Carle to finance Mr. Chrétien's campaign against Paul Martin's forces. The other search was done by the RCMP, who acted with uncharacteristic swiftness after Mr. Vennat personally contacted the RCMP's chief commissioner, Giuliano Zaccardelli, about Mr. Beaudoin's alleged crimes.

No incriminating documents having been found, Messrs. Carle and Vennat then turned to a private accounting firm, KPMG, which was paid $1-million to investigate Mr. Beaudoin's behaviour at the bank. Judge Denis later dismissed the KPMG report as a tissue of unsubstantiated allegations.

Judge Denis completely vindicated Mr. Beaudoin, who was, he wrote, "the victim of a ferocious and vicious vendetta" and he dismissed Mr. Vennat's testimony as not credible. Mr. Vennat will have a tough time today when he tries to justify his actions.