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Benoit Corbeil, former director-general of the Liberal Party's office in Montreal, leaves court on Friday, April 18, 2008. (Paul Chiasson)
Benoit Corbeil, former director-general of the Liberal Party's office in Montreal, leaves court on Friday, April 18, 2008. (Paul Chiasson)

Liberal official seeks discharge in kickback scheme Add to ...

Former Liberal official Benoît Corbeil did not benefit financially from a $117,000 fake-invoice scheme and a $50,000 kickback, and deserves a conditional discharge for the two crimes to which he has pleaded guilty, court was told Friday.

Mr. Corbeil, the former director-general of the Liberal Party's Quebec wing, testified at his sentencing hearing that the only cash he ever received was $5,000 to pay for the cost of adopting a girl in China in 2000.

Mr. Corbeil said he did not know where that money was coming from and insisted it was not linked directly to either of the two criminal incidents.

However, he did acknowledge the money was given to him by Liberal fundraiser Joe Morselli during a Christmas party.

Mr. Corbeil said the money derived from the $50,000 kickback was redistributed to Mr. Morselli, as well as two Liberal riding associations outside of Montreal Island, prior to the 1997 general election.

He added that the money from the six fake invoices, which he had approved, was used by Mr. Morselli to organize two Liberal events in 1999 and 2000. The goal was to pack halls with supporters of then-prime minister Jean Chrétien, whose loyalists were involved in internal fights with the supporters of then-finance minister Paul Martin.

Mr. Corbeil said the Liberal Party's Quebec wing was always short of money, and he said the fake invoices were used to obtain cash to pay for Liberal "volunteers" at party events and to organize matters like transportation.

Mr. Corbeil's lawyer, Michel Grenier, told Madame Justice Suzanne Coupal of the Quebec Court that his client is willing to pay a fine and to do community work. He said that in his view, Mr. Corbeil's crimes do not warrant a jail sentence.

Mr. Grenier said that Mr. Corbeil, a father of two, leads a stable life and will lose his job as vice-president of a cleaning firm if he is incarcerated.

Crown prosecutor Josée Fontaine called on Judge Coupal to impose a firm prison term of 18 to 24 months.

Ms. Fontaine said it does not matter how the defrauded money was used or who benefited from the crime. She said it must not be forgotten that Mr. Corbeil was instrumental in the fake-invoice scheme because of his signing authority in the Liberal Party.

"He had his hand on the faucet," she said.

Judge Coupal will render her sentence on Dec. 4.

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