Court releases documents describing illegal political financing scheme in Quebec

MONTREAL – The Quebec Liberals have been hit with the release of heavily redacted court documents describing a police investigation seeking evidence of an illegal political financing scheme where party donations would have been exchanged for lucrative public contracts.

The court documents were obtained by a consortium of media organizations including Le Devoir, La Presse and Radio Canada.

The documents stem from a July 2013 raid quietly conducted on Liberal headquarters while most of the province’s media was focused on the tragedy in Lac Megantic, Que.

Media reports say those heavily censored documents show the provincial police anti-corruption squad was mainly interested in a fundraiser in a Quebec City restaurant featuring former deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau on Oct. 9, 2008.

La Presse and Radio Canada reported another intriguing detail from the documents: that the raid was initially scheduled for June 2012 — just before the Charest Liberals called an election — but it was called off for “operational” reasons, and delayed for more than a year.

A party spokeswoman has denied that any political interference led to a delay.

The Liberals reacted with a statement published on their website, saying the party is co-operating with the investigation by Quebec’s anti-corruption squad, known as UPAC.

The party says it was a Liberal government that created UPAC, along with the ongoing public inquiry on corruption and several new laws to combat illicit financing.

“On behalf of the 53,000 members of our party that are involved across the province to advance Quebec, we want light to be shed on this,” the unsigned statement says.

Those who broke the law will answer for their crimes, the statement concludes.

“If, at the end of the investigation, it is shown that individuals have committed acts that do not respect the law, they will suffer the consequences and be held accountable,” it said.

Earlier this month, Quebec’s director-general of elections announced it had issued eight fines for five people stemming from that same Normandeau event, a case involving engineering firms and numerous people who posed as legitimate, private donors.

In September, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard revealed that he met investigators in the wee hours of the morning at his home, answering their questions about the mechanics of the party.

At the time, the Liberal leader said none of his current MNAs had been questioned by police and he was not the focus of the investigation.

No charges have been laid.

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