News / Canada

Crown seeks 5 years for ex-Liberal organizer convicted in sponsorship fraud

Former Liberal organizer Jacques Corriveau waits to hear the judge's instructions to the jury before they begin deliberations in his trial on charges of influence peddling, money laundering and forgery, at the Montreal courthouse in an October 27, 2016, file photo. Corriveau should spend between three and five years in prison following his conviction on fraud-related charges in connection with the sponsorship program, the Crown suggested on Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Former Liberal organizer Jacques Corriveau waits to hear the judge's instructions to the jury before they begin deliberations in his trial on charges of influence peddling, money laundering and forgery, at the Montreal courthouse in an October 27, 2016, file photo. Corriveau should spend between three and five years in prison following his conviction on fraud-related charges in connection with the sponsorship program, the Crown suggested on Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL — Ex-Liberal party organizer Jacques Corriveau should spend up to five years in prison following his conviction on fraud-related charges in connection with the sponsorship program, the Crown suggested on Monday.

Corriveau deserves an exemplary sentence, not just for stealing, but for increasing the public's distrust in government, prosecutors Jacques Dagenais and Claude Girard told the court.

A jury found Corriveau, 83, guilty of fraud against the government, forgery and laundering proceeds of crime between 1997 and 2003 during what became known as the sponsorship scandal that helped take down the Liberal government in 2006.

"The damages aren't just about taking public money," Dagenais said during sentencing arguments. "The impact of the sponsorship scandal increased the cynicism and mistrust of the public towards elected officials."

Dagenais, who prosecuted Corriveau on two of the three charges, suggested to Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-Francois Buffoni that the ex-Liberal receive between three and five years in prison.

Girard, who prosecuted the money laundering charge, said Corriveau should get five years, served concurrently.

"We never heard of any remorse on the part of Mr. Corriveau," Girard said. "We're in total silence here. I come to the conclusion that if Mr. Corriveau had shown remorse, by this point it would have come to our attention."

Dagenais accused Corriveau during the trial of facilitating sponsorship contracts to companies hired to help the federal government increase its profile in Quebec after the 1995 sovereignty referendum.

Corriveau was charged and found guilty of taking millions of dollars worth of kickbacks tied to sponsorship contracts. Girard said the amount Corriveau stole is roughly $7 million.

Girard told the court that Corriveau "enriched himself significantly from the money and we cannot trace where several million dollars went."

The Gomery Commission, which looked into the sponsorship program, found that firms were winning contracts based on donations to the federal Liberals, with little work being done.

Three other people convicted in the fall-out of the sponsorship scandal received sentences ranging from 18 months to three-and-a-half years in detention.

"I conclude that Corriveau — while not the only one — was an important actor, and certainly ... put in place a system to misdirect public funds," Dagenais said.

Corriveau's lawyer, Gerald Souliere, is expected to make his sentencing recommendation Tuesday.