Former CSIS watchdog boss Arthur Porter arrested on fraud charges

Dr. Arthur Porter speaks with a reporter at his home in Nassau, Bahamas, March 2, 2013. Jeff Todd/AP

MONTREAL – The former head of Canada’s spy-agency watchdog has been arrested abroad and faces fraud charges.

Arthur Porter, who has been wanted for months in connection with Quebec’s corruption scandals, was arrested along with his wife Pamela by Panamanian authorities.

The pair’s detention was announced in a statement by Quebec’s anti-corruption police watchdog, which said the arrest was carried out with the help of the RCMP and Interpol.

Porter had been appointed head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which monitors the work of CSIS, by the Harper government in 2008.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Porter’s alleged criminal acts had nothing to do with the work he did for the Government of Canada.

At the same time that Porter held his federal role, he was director general of the McGill University Hospital Centre — which is now mired deep in scandals and the subject of multiple criminal charges.

He abruptly resigned from his federal post in November 2011, ultimately quitting his hospital role as well and leaving the country.

The Sierra Leone-born Porter faces charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud against the government, breach of trust, laundering the proceeds of crime, and participating in a secret commission. His wife faces charges of laundering criminal proceeds and conspiracy.

Extradition proceedings have been launched against the two.

Porter is one of several people facing fraud-related charges stemming from the construction of the $1.3-billion McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, one of Canada’s biggest infrastructure projects. Others charged include the former head of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

Porter had been managing director of a private cancer treatment centre in the Bahamas. He told media that he had late, stage-four cancer and was too ill to travel to Canada.

“I don’t want them to think I would chicken out on anything,” he told The Associated Press during an interview in February. “So if they want to come here, absolutely no problem.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.