The arrests of former ministers Nathalie Normandeau and Marc-Yvan Côté, which occurred the same day the budget was tabled, were reportedly rushed at the request of Commissioner Robert Lafrenière when the investigators were not ready.
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The investigator in the file, Mathieu Venne is at least convinced of this and this is what he declared to the Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI) in 2019. The BEI was investigating and is still investigating the practices of the UPAC which carried out an internal witch hunt to find out who was responsible for leaking information to the media.
"We were rushed...we weren't ready...who am I to postpone arrests??? “, declared Mr. Venne to the BEI about the preparation of part of the JOUG dossier, in connection with political financing. Mathieu Venne had been assigned since 2012 to this investigation, which notably targeted the former Minister of Municipal Affairs, Nathalie Normandeau.
“No cheerfulness of heart”
In February 2015, his team leader Geneviève Leclerc allegedly told him that “the management wanted the project to land”.
The week before the arrest of the ex-ministers, in March 2016, the investigator had spoken with prosecutors to ask for an additional month of investigation before bringing charges "which did not seem to be a problem. »
But three days later, on Monday morning, his boss tells him that the arrests are finally scheduled in two weeks. “On the same day the plan changes for a week to finally be told that the operation will take place this Thursday,” reads the summary of his meeting with the BEI.
“Geneviève Leclerc’s argument was to the effect that the leaders were ready and that there was an urgency to act, continues the summary. Venne declares that the facial expression of Leclerc [...] clearly demonstrated that this request was not made lightly. According to Mr. Venne, the decision was made “above” the team leader.
The investigator says he had to put everything aside to devote himself to the preparations for the operation. It was only the day before, when he was in Quebec to obtain the arrest warrants, that he learned that the date of the arrests fell on the same day as the tabling of the government budget.
The police operation obviously had the effect of a bomb and eclipsed the announcements of the Minister of Finance Carlos Leitao.
"I owe you a beer"
Investigator Venne also remembers having met Commissioner Lafrenière at the Nautilus where several UPAC police officers train “well before March 17, 2016” and the arrest of Nathalie Normandeau”.
While the two men were in the locker room, the commissioner allegedly said to him "Is your file coming up, how are you going to give birth [...] if it can go quickly, I'll buy you a beer". Lafrenière would then have kept his promise by buying him a beer at the Longueuil golf club in February 2017.
"I owe you a beer, I'll pay you," Lafrenière allegedly told him.
Mr. Lafrenière has always claimed that the arrests in broad daylight were just a coincidence.
Mr. Venne rather believes, according to his comments reported by the BEI, that the commissioner had a “hidden agenda” and says he is “convinced” that the acceleration of the arrests is the “responsibility of the commissioner”.
He also maintains that an investigator in the GRAVIER file on the city of Mascouche received “pressure directly from the commissioner for things to move forward and for there to be arrests”. The investigator would have refused and would have been packed, according to Venne.
In another investigation, MEDIATORE, targeting corruption schemes in Terrebonne, this time, Venne affirms that his colleague told him that Commissioner Lafrenière had asked to move the file forward in addition to adding elements that would have favored the renewal of his mandate.
"The goal is for the credits - to look good...it's all over our heads...when you look at the arrests of 17 [March] you say to yourself...we read them in the papers too ... We are just pawns on a chessboard...” can be read in the summary of his interview.
Credit studies always take place each year in the spring. This is an opportunity for ministers, state companies and even UPAC to come and report on their activities to parliamentarians who can question them about their results.
In the days following the arrest of Ms. Normandeau, Commissioner Lafrenière denied that he had pulled off a stunt so that the Liberal government would renew its mandate, which effectively expired on April 1, 2016, two weeks after the arrests. Coincidence or not, the commissioner was reappointed a few days later.
These elements of the Oath investigation were presented under oath in 2020 to Judge André Perreault, who used them to declare a stay of proceedings in the files of Nathalie Normandeau and Marc-Yvan Côté. No arrests have been made to date in the Oath investigation.