Former ministers Nathalie Normandeau and Marc-Yvan Côté escaped a criminal trial because of the “serious misconduct” of the former boss of the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC) Robert Lafrenière and his acolytes.
Leaks of information orchestrated by UPAC senior management. "Bogus investigation" that targeted innocent people and led the justice system on "false leads".
These words are those of Judge André Perreault, of the Court of Quebec, when he pronounced the stay of proceedings against Nathalie Normandeau, on September 25, 2020.
So far, his decision was heavily redacted, so that it was impossible to report the exact reasons for the abandonment of the charges which were aimed in particular at the former Deputy Prime Minister.
To understand this saga, you have to go back to the summer of 2017.
At that time, Normandeau and Côté had been accused for a year of fraud and corruption in municipal affairs, following the Joug and Lierre investigations in connection with a Boisbriand water treatment plant project.
Robert Lafrenière, then commissioner of UPAC, launched the Project A investigation in June 2017 to find out who had leaked information in several media reports about the investigations being carried out by his organization, including that which had targeted Normandeau and Côté.
Then, in the fall of 2018, at the request of the Ministry of Public Security, the Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI) looked into the conduct of Project A as part of its Oath investigation.
However, the BEI made surprising discoveries after interviewing 90 witnesses. According to the BEI, several leaks came from Lafrenière himself, as well as from his right-hand man André Boulanger and other UPAC executives (see opposite).
Orchestrated by leaders
These leaks led to a cascade of delays prejudicial to the six defendants in Joug and Lierre, including Nathalie Normandeau and Marc-Yvan Côté, said Judge Perreault.
"In the opinion of the court, ... UPAC not only failed to diligently report information about the leaks that was relevant to the investigation, but the evidence demonstrates that the leaks were orchestrated by leaders of the UPAC, principals of the investigators in the file”, writes the judge, who describes Project A as a “bogus investigation”.
According to him, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) “had to settle for being behind the police misconduct” in the Normandeau file.
"Like the fruit produced by the poisoned tree, Project A contributed to the delays by inviting the DPCP and the judicial system to follow false leads," said the magistrate.
By asking for a stay of proceedings, the lawyers for the defendants were not kind to the former leaders of UPAC.
“The applicants claim that the leaks from UPAC investigations are part of a system wanted by senior management, in particular Commissioner Lafrenière and Director of Operations André Boulanger. They add that members of the UPAC perjured themselves, obstructed the work of the police and the course of justice and that they intentionally sought to have innocent people, to their knowledge, be charged with criminal offences. , notes the judge.
No charges to date
The Honorable André Perreault specifies that the Oath of the BEI investigation is not over, but “that he does not have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that suspects are guilty of crimes for which they are investigated”.
Thus, neither Robert Lafrenière, nor André Boulanger, nor any other suspect of the Oath investigation is to date the subject of criminal charges.
"It may well be that the Oath investigation evolves and that the evidence differs in the medium or long term, but the Court cannot speculate," added the judge.
Remember that it was also within the framework of Project A that MP Guy Ouellette was arrested, then released without charge in October 2017. The latter obtained a public apology from the current boss of UPAC Frédérick Gaudreau in June 2021.
As part of the requests for a stay of proceedings, Michel Doyon, principal investigator of the Oath project at the BEI, informed the Court on several occasions of the discoveries of his team concerning the former leaders of UPAC. We reproduce here excerpts from the Perrault judgment which summarize the presentations made by Mr. Doyon.
Big boss of UPAC since the creation of this organization, in 2011, until his surprise resignation on election day on October 1, 2018.
Inspector at the Sûreté du Québec and director of operations at UPAC until April 2018. Placed under administrative measures since March 1, 2019 because he is the subject of criminal allegations of obstruction of justice, abuse of trust and identity fraud, among others. He has always maintained his innocence.
Responsible for project A at UPAC and spouse of André Boulanger, she has been assigned to administrative tasks since March 2019 following allegations of breach of trust, identity fraud and illegal interception of communications. She also says she has nothing to be ashamed of.
Director of communications for UPAC until her departure in November 2018, she was the organization's spokesperson in the media.
Now senior director at Revenu Québec, he was associate commissioner for audits at UPAC until his departure in November 2018.
This lieutenant was one of the investigators assigned to Project A at UPAC.
Former Deputy Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs in the governments of Jean Charest. Arrested in March 2016 and accused in particular of fraud and corruption, she obtained a stay of proceedings in September 2020 because of the unreasonable delays of the judicial system.
Former Liberal Minister of Transport and Vice-President of the engineering firm Roche, he was one of the co-defendants arrested by UPAC in March 2016. He too obtained a stay of proceedings.