‘I was framed’ for challenging corruption squad, Quebec politician says

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MONTREAL—A former cop-turned politician, a vengeful anti-corruption police force and a mystery interview recorded by a politician fearing he will be jailed before he can go public with the findings of his own probe.

This is no back-page detective-novel summary, but the contours of a real-life cloak-and-dagger drama playing out in Quebec that could climax in the provincial legislature this week.

The politician, a former Sûreté du Québec biker gang detective named Guy Ouellette, has shared the alleged findings of his own renegade corruption inquiry with a Montreal radio host. The contents, which have not been independently confirmed, could be explosive.

According to the Journal de Montreal, Ouellette was probing complaints that two of the public institutions tasked with rooting out corrupt activities in Quebec—the police and the provincial securities regulator—are themselves engaged in improper behaviour.

The details of the affair have only come to light after Ouellette himself was arrested by investigators with Quebec’s anti-corruption squad, known as l’Unité permanente anticorruption, or UPAC, last week.

The investigators were reportedly probing the leak of confidential information to the media that had to do with former Quebec premier Jean Charest and the finances of the provincial Liberal party. Speaking about the leak earlier this year, the head of the anti-corruption squad, Robert Lafrenière, vowed to bring to justice “the bandit” responsible for the leak.

Ouellette was not charged with any crimes following his arrest last week, but UPAC said in a statement that the arrest was “necessary, among other reasons to secure pieces of evidence and to prevent the infractions from continuing or being repeated.”

That police vigilance reportedly continued after Ouellette’s arrest and a search of his Quebec City apartment.

Last Friday, the politician walked into the office of Montreal radio host Bernard Drainville, claiming that he had been under surveillance ever since his arrest and didn’t know where else to turn.

After several hours in the company of Drainville, who is a former Parti Quebecois member of the Quebec legislature, Ouellette recorded his allegations for safe keeping, in case he did not get to repeat them in Quebec City on Tuesday.

As an elected member speaking in the legislature, Ouellette would benefit from parliamentary immunity and be able to speak without fear of a libel or defamation lawsuit.

“The events of this week have led me to think that UPAC will do everything to muzzle me, to silence a parliamentarian … so that I cannot give my version or inform the population about all the intimidation tactics that are underway right now by this same unit,” he told Drainville, according to an excerpt of the interview that was played on the 98.5FM radio station Monday morning.

Ouellette also denied that he was involved in the leak of confidential information about Charest. Instead, he said he was simply being punished for trying to stand up to a police force that has grown too powerful and is no longer accountable to its elected masters.

“I never could have thought I could be framed like I was framed last Wednesday,” he said, referring to his arrest. “I never thought that could happen in 2017, particularly for an elected official who is only doing his work.”

Ouellette was accompanied at the radio station by a former government analyst, Annie Trudel, who said that she has been providing him with information about a scheme that forces companies to pay exorbitant sums to consultants before they can obtain a mandatory permit that allows them to bid on public contracts.

Quebec’s financial regulator, l’Autorité des marchés financiers, is the public body that issues or denies the permits to companies.

A division of the anti-corruption police force conducts the background checks into companies seeking the permit to bid on contracts.

Trudel told the Journal de Montreal that the permits are granted by Quebec’s financial regulator only after companies have paid money to private consultants to come into compliance with UPAC’s recommendations.

In one instance, Trudel said a company had to pay $600,000 in fees to the consultants. In another case, the price tag for compliance was $1 million to meet the requirements for a permit.

“If they don’t have their permission from the (financial regulator), they go bankrupt,” Trudel said of the companies. “If I look at the definition of corruption for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, it fits.”

A spokesperson for the Autorité des marchés financiers did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment Trudel’s allegations. An email to a UPAC spokesperson seeking a response to the report also went unanswered.