News / Canada

Defence seeks no prison time for ex-Liberal convicted in sponsorship fraud

MONTREAL — The trial delays and advanced age of an ex-Liberal party organizer convicted for his role in the sponsorship scandal are reasons he should avoid prison, his lawyer told the court Tuesday.

Jacques Corriveau, 83, who was considered one of the highest-ranking federal Liberals in Quebec at one time, should serve his sentence in the community, defence lawyer Gerald Souliere said.

"I don't need to tell this court that the older you are, the fewer years you have ahead of you," Souliere told Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-Francois Buffoni during sentencing arguments.

A jury found Corriveau 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 Crown has suggested that Corriveau should spend up to five years in prison.

The sponsorship program was created after the 1995 sovereignty referendum in order to increase the presence of the federal government in Quebec.

Corriveau allegedly pocketed roughly $7 million worth of kickbacks tied to sponsorship contracts that were given to Liberal-friendly companies.

The federal government inquiry that looked into the program found that firms were winning contracts with little work being done.

"Nothing in the evidence shows that Mr. Corriveau knew the contracts were bogus or inflated," Souliere said. "Year after year the (federal government) renewed the contracts. He wasn't responsible for inflating them."

Souliere said his client also deserves leniency because it took so long for his trial. Corriveau was charged in late 2013 after an 11-year investigation.

Crown prosecutor Claude Girard told the judge in his reply that Corriveau has not shown remorse or regret for his actions.

"Corriveau says he has suffered because his assets have been frozen," Girard said. "He claims to be the victim! What right does this man have to claim injury by not having access to this money. This money doesn't belong to him; it belongs to the public."

All sides return to court on Dec. 14, when Buffoni will hear arguments about how Corriveau's assets will be divided to pay back the money he is convicted of stealing.