Extradition on hold for corruption-case hospital boss

The ex-hospital director facing bribery charges related to the construction of a major new hospital in Montreal will not be extradited to Canada from Panama yet because his lawyer has challenged his detention.

Arthur Porter (pictured), former director general of McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), was detained by Interpol agents in Panama in May 2013 following a warrant for his arrest issued by Canadian police.

Arthur Porter, former director general of McGill University Health Centre (credit: MUHC)

Porter is alleged to have orchestrated a bribery scheme to channel CAN$22.5m from former executives at Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, who won the CAN$1.3bn contract to build the new MUHC, one of Canada’s biggest hospital projects, in 2010.

Canadian media reported on 17 January that Panama has now agreed to send Porter back.

But a spokesperson for Panama’s foreign affairs ministry told newspaper The Montreal Gazette that Porter’s lawyer has filed a habeas corpus writ – a legal motion seeking his release unless lawful grounds are shown for his detention.

A spokesperson for Canada’s Justice Department gave a similar statement, writing in an email to the newspaper that "the matter of Mr. Porter’s extradition remains before the courts in Panama and his challenge will be processed according to their laws and procedures."

Porter’s wife Pamela Mattock Porter was also arrested in Panama, but she did not resist extradition and last month pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering in connection with the MUHC case. Court documents outline shell companies owned by the Porters that were allegedly used to receive millions from SNC-Lavalin International.

Canadian authorities say that, of the CAN$22.5m allegedly stolen, they have identified and frozen CAN$17.5m, including dozens of accounts in Switzerland, Sierra Leone (Porter’s country of origin), Liechtenstein, Israel, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States. Properties in St. Kitts-Nevis, the Bahamas, Michigan and Florida were subject to the freeze.

Preliminary hearings for the MUHC case are due to begin in March.

Also charged in relation to the case are former SNC-Lavalin chief executive Pierre Duhaime, former vice president in charge of construction, Riadh Ben Aissa, another former SNC-Lavalin vice president, Stephane Roy, a former MUHC director, Yanai Elbaz, and Elbaz’s brother, Yohann.

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