Prosecutors are seeking a four-year prison term for a former high-tech executive who was found guilty of attempting to bribe government officials in India, a landmark case that is expected to set a precedent for future corruption sentences in Canada.
Nazir Karigar was convicted last fall for his role in a plot to distribute at least $450,000 in bribes to officials at state-owned Air India, as well as an Indian cabinet minister, in an attempt to secure a contract for his company to provide the airline with security technology. Mr. Karigar is the first individual to be tried and convicted under Canada's foreign bribery law.
Speaking in an Ottawa courtroom on Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Moray Welch argued that a four-year prison sentence would serve an important purpose by denouncing Mr. Karigar's actions and deterring others from attempting similar behaviour. Mr. Karigar's lawyers are expected to make their submissions on Monday.
In 2005, Mr. Karigar approached the Ottawa office of CryptoMetrics, a U.S.-based technology firm, with an offer to help the company secure a contract to supply Air India with a facial-recognition security system. He later became executive director of the company's Indian subsidiary and introduced members of the firm to several high-ranking officials at Air India.
Prosecutors were unable to show during the trial that money actually exchanged hands, and CryptoMetrics was not ultimately awarded the contract. However, Justice Charles Hackland of the Ontario Superior Court ruled that there was enough of a paper trail to show that Mr. Karigar and others at CryptoMetrics intended to make the payments.
Mr. Welch argued that while others were involved in the case, Mr. Karigar was a central figure. "Not only did Mr. Karigar play a leading role in this enterprise, he was the instigator," Mr. Welch argued during the sentencing hearing on Wednesday.
He asked the court to consider the large sum of money involved in the case, the potential profits at stake in the Air India contract, and the number of people who were drawn into the conspiracy as aggravating factors that should increase the severity of Mr. Karigar's sentence. However, the prosecutor added that the fact that no contract was awarded could also be considered a mitigating factor in determining an appropriate sentence.
The sentencing is complicated by the fact that Mr. Karigar is the first individual to be convicted under Canada's Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, which means there are no similar Canadian cases for the judge to consider. Three companies have been convicted under the Act during the past decade, but all pleaded guilty and so did not see their cases go to trial.
The maximum sentence under Canada's foreign bribery law at the time Mr. Karigar was convicted was five years. That has since been increased to 14 years, but the new sentencing range cannot be applied retroactively to Mr. Karigar's case.
With a file from reporter Greg McArthur