Skip to main content

To most investors in his company, Cesar Correia looks like an up-and-coming entrepreneur.

Mr. Correia, 44, co-founded and runs Infolink Technologies Ltd., a Toronto-based company that specializes in sending messages in bulk by fax, voice mail and e-mail. Infolink trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and it has become a popular service for political parties and marketing firms.

But many shareholders don't know that, 20 years ago, Mr. Correia picked up a baseball bat and smashed his father's head while he was fixing the family car at their home in Winnipeg.

As Joachim Correia went down, his son hit him three more times. Then he got a smaller bat and hit him again.

Mr. Correia wrapped his father in a carpet, put a plastic bag over his head and dumped him in the Assiniboine River. The next day, he and his mother reported Joachim missing and even called on the media to help find him.

Before long, the body was found, and Mr. Correia confessed. He eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a five-year sentence.

During sentencing, the judge said Joachim had been so abusive toward Mr. Correia, his brother and mother that life in the Correia home "was a living hell."

But some relatives, including Joachim's brother, were furious at the sentence and called it "a licence to kill." They said Joachim was a good, hard-working man who feared that his son was plotting to kill him.

Mr. Correia served 10 months in jail, finished his university degree in computer science and headed to Toronto.

He has never revealed his conviction publicly, and management profiles filed by the company with securities regulators make no mention of the killing.

Mr. Correia told The Globe and Mail that he doesn't have to disclose the conviction because he received a pardon in 1996, and the crime has no bearing on his role at Infolink.

"It happened in 1984 and then everything else has been going forward in my life," he said. "I don't see how that has anything to do with the work that I do today. I could see if it was a fraud that happened, or something like that -- then I shouldn't even be in a public company. But that's not the case, is it?"

His former partner disagrees. George Theodore, who co-founded Infolink in 1999 and remains a major shareholder, said he didn't know about the conviction until last year and quit the company as a result.

He is convinced Infolink lost at least two business deals because potential partners found out about the conviction and backed out.

Mr. Theodore said shareholders have a right to full information and the conviction and pardon should be disclosed. This month, he sent a letter to the company's board and the Ontario Securities Commission expressing concern about the issue and other alleged problems at Infolink.

Mr. Correia denies the allegations and said Mr. Theodore is a disgruntled former partner who is trying to oust him as CEO. Two companies involved in failed deals with Infolink told The Globe that they found out about Mr. Correia's past, but they said it was not a factor in their decision.

If they did know the story, investors, like the judge in the case, might be swayed by the circumstances. Mr. Correia told the court that his father abused his mother continually and threatened to kill her.

His mother, Lucilia, testified that she was terrified of her husband. "I cannot think of one day in the last three years that I haven't ended up crying because of his treatment of me," she told the court.

The judge ruled that Joachim was a cruel, abusive man. "I have no difficulty in concluding it instilled in the heart and mind of the accused a sense of devastation, desperation and frustration, which was consummated in a burning hatred for his father," he said, according to media reports at the time.

However, the OSC requires all directors and officers of public companies to disclose criminal convictions and "any other penalties or sanctions imposed by a court or regulatory body that would likely be considered important to a reasonable investor in making an investment decision."

People who have criminal convictions can usually apply to the National Parole Board for a pardon five years after the expiration of their sentence.

According to the board, pardons allow "people who were convicted of a criminal offence, but have completed their sentence and demonstrated they are law-abiding citizens, to have their criminal record kept separate and apart from other criminal records."

However, pardons do not erase a conviction and they can be revoked by the parole board at any time.

There is also no guarantee that a pardon granted in Canada will be recognized by other countries, something Mr. Theodore claimed could prevent Infolink from expanding into the United States.

An OSC official declined to comment on whether pardons should be disclosed, but added that pardons are administered by the federal government and the commission follows the federal rules.

Experts say the question of pardons is difficult. Bill Mackenzie, president of Toronto-based Fairvest Corp., which specializes in shareholder activism, said investors probably have a right to know about a pardon or conviction if it is affecting the business.

"There is an issue there, that's for sure," he said. "If the business is not working to potential and it's because of [the CEO's]reputation, it would strike me he should step down, or be replaced by shareholders."

Peter Chapman, who runs the Shareholder Association for Research and Education in Vancouver, said the matter strikes at two competing rights -- the right of someone with a pardon to privacy, and the right of shareholders to full and complete information.

"If I felt I lost money, I don't know how I would react," he said.

A comparable issue attracted headlines last February when James Minder stepped down as chairman of the parent of gun maker Smith & Wesson after a newspaper revealed he had been convicted in the 1950s for armed robbery.

Mr. Minder, 74, said he did not disclose his criminal past because "nobody asked." He added that he had turned his life around since he had been released from jail in 1969. The company said he would remain involved as an independent director.

In Canada, a pardon does not stop a conviction from being disclosed by other means. For example, last February, a Manitoba court threw out the case of Nestor Kripp, who lost his job after his boss found out about Mr. Kripp's conviction for criminal breach of trust through newspaper articles. Mr. Kripp received a four-year sentence but had been pardoned.

The articles were sent to the Manitoba Securities Commission when Mr. Kripp applied to sell mutual funds and an official at the commission passed them on to Mr. Kripp's boss at a division of Standard Life Assurance Co. The company fired him for failing to disclose "a material fact with respect to your background," according to court documents.

Mr. Kripp sued the commission and the company, arguing that, given his pardon, his criminal record should have never been disclosed. He said the revelation was a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

But the court disagreed: "While the purpose of the Criminal Records Act is to bar any further disadvantage imposed by Parliament that arises from a pardoned conviction by cleansing the individual of the stain caused by the conviction and limiting the uses to which the fact of the conviction can be put, the conviction cannot be said not to have existed by virtue of the pardon."

The court added that the law "does not apply to information already in the public domain. Once information has been made public, it is not in the custody of a federal government department and is not subject to the controls specified in the Criminal Records Act."

Mr. Correia said he has not tried to hide his conviction. He said he has told company directors and been up-front with anyone who asks. "Am I proud of what I have done? No. I am not proud of it at all. But it has been 20 years."

He also defended the information filed with regulators. One company filing states that from 1986 to 1987, "Mr. Correia designed and developed a database for the Winnipeg Department of Finance."

In fact, Mr. Correia was sentenced on April 17, 1986, and went to jail. He was free on bail at the time of the sentencing.

When asked about the profile, Mr. Correia replied: "Well, from 1986 to 1987, I worked [for the department] Maybe not the full time, but somewhere in there. But for 10 months I wasn't around, of course."

The court heard what did happen at that time: Mr. Correia and his father got into an argument while working on the car in the garage on April 26, 1984.

Joachim yelled at his son for taking the clutch out too quickly, according to press reports at the time. As he bent over to plug in a battery charger, Mr. Correia clubbed him from behind.

"He went down," Mr. Correia told police, according to information filed in court. "I hit him three or four times. Then I got a smaller bat and hit him once or twice."

Mr. Correia, who was a university student at the time, carefully wrapped his father's body in a carpet and then loaded him into the trunk of the car along with a shotgun and a 10-speed bike.

He drove the car to the river, dumped the body and then parked the car not far from the family home. He left the gun in the trunk to throw off police and biked home. Over the next few days, Mr. Correia cleaned the blood and threw away his bloodstained clothes.

A group of children found the body a couple of weeks later, and Mr. Correia quickly confessed to police during an interview. He was originally charged with murder, but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Mr. Correia said he grapples with his father's death every day but said he was only trying to protect his mother and younger brother.

"I wanted to get out, but when your mother begs you, 'Don't leave me here,' what are you supposed to do?" he asked. "What would you do for your mother?"

In an interview, Mr. Correia said that after serving his time, he finished his computer-science degree at the University of Manitoba in 1989 and headed to Toronto with his girlfriend. He had a job selling cellphones at one point and started a predecessor to Infolink in 1993.

Infolink has annual revenues of around $5-million, and Mr. Correia earned $250,000 last year.

He said his mother is "doing the best she can," and he keeps in close touch with her and his brother.

As for his own future plans, Mr. Correia is not even thinking about getting married or having a family. "I need to chill out. It's been way too much. I just don't need any more ties and problems."

He said he devotes nearly all his time to the company, but the death of his father will always be with him.

"It's very difficult to put that behind me. Different people experience different things in life that you can never get over."

Paul Waldie is a feature writer for The Globe and Mail.