Daniel LeBlanc, Montreal, QC (Globe and Mail) – The RCMP has struck an immunity deal with disgraced adman Jean Brault in exchange for information on other players in the sponsorship scandal, notably money man Jacques Corriveau, court records show.
A search warrant that was partly unsealed yesterday says that Mr. Brault gave a sworn videotaped deposition on Jan. 9, 2007, to the RCMP. Mr. Brault was still serving a 30-month prison sentence for fraud at the time, but he received assurances that the RCMP would not lay further charges against him.
“Jean Brault was told that the information that he would provide to the police would not be used against him, in relation to all other investigations into these dealings with the government of Canada,” said the warrant, which was used to raid the home of Mr. Corriveau last year. According to the final report of the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal, Mr. Corriveau was a central figure in a kickback scheme that benefited the Liberal Party of Canada and himself. Over the years, Mr. Corriveau received about $10-million from companies involved in the sponsorship program, including Mr. Brault’s advertising agency, Groupaction Marketing Inc., a report on the sponsorship scandal said.
The goal of the sponsorship program was to promote national unity by putting flags and banners at cultural and sporting events in Quebec, but the program was marred by mismanagement and fraud.
So far, the heads of three advertising firms and one bureaucrat have been found guilty of fraud in conjunction with the RCMP and Sureté du Québec investigations. A Liberal organizer is awaiting trial, and the RCMP probe is still active.
According to the search warrant, Mr. Brault told RCMP investigators that his main link with the Liberal Party was Mr. Corriveau, a friend of then-prime-minister Jean Chrétien, and an influential party organizer. The warrant said Mr. Brault pointed out that Mr. Corriveau had a number of contacts in government, and that Groupaction made payments of $495,000 to Mr. Corriveau’s firm from 1996 to 2000.
“Jacques Corriveau informed Jean Brault that he could intervene directly with the Prime Minister’s Office. Corriveau also said he could intervene with and obtain information from [then-bureaucrat] Charles Guité on the status of sponsorship requests,” the search warrant said. The document says Mr. Brault added that he first met Mr. Corriveau at a restaurant in Montreal along with two other Liberal supporters, former organizer Alain Renaud and current Liberal MP Denis Coderre.
Mr. Corriveau frequently asked for money on behalf of the Liberal Party, according to Mr. Brault, the document said.
“Corriveau told him: ‘It doesn’t go in my pockets, it goes to our cause,’ ” the document said. Mr. Brault told the RCMP that in order to get the money, Mr. Corriveau submitted “fake invoices … for services not rendered.”
The search warrant also says there were extensive dealings over the years between Groupaction and Groupe Polygone, a company that received $30-million under the sponsorship program. According to the search warrant, $6.7-million of those funds were given in subcontracts to Mr. Corriveau’s firm. Mr. Corriveau’s house was raided last year by the RCMP’s proceeds-of-crime unit, while Groupe Polygone’s offices were raided in June, 2005, on the same day that owner Luc Lemay was arrested and released.
The search warrant alleges Mr. Lemay, Mr. Corriveau and Mr. Brault “committed fraud and a conspiracy to commit fraud against the government of Canada.” The search warrant also reveals details on the ties between Mr. Corriveau and Mr. Guité, the bureaucrat who oversaw the sponsorship program in its initial years. The document states that Mr. Guité made 95 calls to the home and office of Mr. Corriveau between 1996 and 1999 while Mr. Guité was a civil servant.
Mr. Guité was found guilty of fraud in 2006, and recently started serving his sentence.
Mr. Corriveau and Mr. Lemay have never faced charges in relation to the sponsorship program.