A former Conservative official in the Senate has been charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly receiving payments from two organizations that had dealings with the federal government.
The RCMP announced Monday that Hubert Pichet, 58, is facing five charges in relation to his duties as a policy adviser. Mr. Pichet worked in the office of Conservative Senator Pierre Claude Nolin from 2006 to 2011, but his experience in Ottawa went back to the 1980s, when he worked in the office of former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
"Claiming that he could influence the awarding of contracts, Pichet allegedly received money from companies wanting to do business with the government," the RCMP said in a statement.
In the summons that was delivered to Mr. Pichet, the RCMP said he received payments without written approval from his superiors. Mr. Pichet is a lawyer and was a university lecturer in human resources in Montreal.
The alleged infractions occurred between 2008 and 2010, and are related to payments to Mr. Pichet from two firms: Can-Am Modev H2 R-D Inc. and JCG Communications. While officials from the first firm could not be reached, the owner of the second firm said that he hired Mr. Pichet to set up meetings between his client, Génome Québec, and legislators on Parliament Hill.
Jacques Gagnon of JCG Communications said that as a former ministerial staffer, he faced a ban on communicating with federal officials to set up meeting. As a result, Mr. Gagnon said he paid about $4,000 to Mr. Pichet to accomplish the task, after having received assurances that Mr. Pichet had the right to do the work.
"I was misled," said Mr. Gagnon, who added that he collaborated with the RCMP.
The RCMP investigation initially focused on an unrelated matter, a $9-million renovation contract on Parliament Hill. The recipient of the contract, Montreal-based construction firm LM Sauvé, hired a Conservative supporter called Gilles Varin to help in its dealings with the federal government.
According to information obtained by The Globe and Mail and Radio-Canada, LM Sauvé paid $140,000 to Mr. Varin between 2007 and 2009. The payments stopped when LM Sauvé filed for bankruptcy protection and lost its contract on Parliament Hill.
In a statement in 2010, Mr. Pichet acknowledged that he met with Mr. Varin and Mr. Sauvé at a restaurant during the tendering process in 2007. However, he qualified the meeting as short and impromptu. Mr. Pichet added that Mr. Varin asked him whether he knew which officials in the office of the public works minister of the day might be of help on the file.
"I have no direct or indirect link to the so-called awarding of this contract," Mr. Pichet said.
Mr. Varin has since died, and no charges have been laid in relation to that contract.
Mr. Pichet ran for the Conservatives in Montreal during the 2008 general election.
Mr. Nolin refused to comment, given that the matter is before the courts. A Conservative official said Mr. Nolin was "surprised" by the charges against his former aide.
In a statement, the Prime Minister's Office said: "Those who break the law must be held responsible for their actions."
Mr. Pichet is scheduled to appear in court in Montreal on May 1.