Skip to main content

Cinar co-founder Ronald Weinberg, who is accused of fraudulently funnelling $120-million (U.S.) out of the company and into offshore accounts, arrives at the courthouse Monday, Dec. 11, 2006 in Montreal.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

One of Canada's longest-running jury trials involving former Cinar Corp. executive Ronald Weinberg is approaching a close, with jury members set to begin their deliberations this week.

Mr. Weinberg, once the celebrated co-founder of Canada's largest children's animation company, is accused of fraudulently funnelling $120-million (U.S.) out of Cinar and into offshore accounts.

He and two investment executives he dealt with – John Xanthoudakis of Norshield Financial Group and Lino Matteo of Mount Real Corp. – are facing 26 charges of fraud and falsifying documents between 1998 and 2000. The men all pleaded not guilty.

Cinar, founded in 1976 by Mr. Weinberg and his late wife, Micheline Charest, produced hit children's shows such as Arthur, Caillou and Paddington Bear. The company went public in 1993 and had a stock-market valuation of $1.5-billion at its peak, but collapsed after an internal review in 1999 raised questions about accounting issues and funds that had been transferred without board approval.

The Sûreté du Québec conducted a decade-long investigation and issued arrest warrants for the accused in 2011.

At the launch of the trial in May, 2014, Crown attorney Matthew Ferguson called Cinar "a massive fraud of a successful public company from the inside and out" and said Mr. Weinberg, Ms. Charest and former executive vice-president Hasanain Panju treated the company like "a personal piggy bank."

Mr. Ferguson alleged $120-million of Cinar funds were transferred to Bahamas-based companies controlled by Norshield without the knowledge of Cinar's board. Mr. Xanthoudakis and Mr. Matteo were accused of orchestrating "the cleanup strategy" to try to cover the losses with backdated transactions.

Mr. Panju, Cinar's former executive vice-president, testified as a key Crown witness in the case, according to a report by La Presse newspaper. The report said Mr. Panju, who was also charged with fraud, pleaded guilty before the trial began and testified for 23 days about events at the firm.

Lawyers began closing arguments in the case in April and Justice Pierre Labrie of the Quebec Superior Court is set to complete his instructions to the jury this week. The panel will then begin deliberations.

Ms. Charest died in 2004 during a plastic surgery procedure and was never charged in the case.

Editor's note: The timing of the judge's instructions to the jury has been corrected in the online version of this story.