Hospital boss in SNC Lavalin corruption case to be extradited from Panama

The ex-hospital director facing bribery charges related to the construction of a major new hospital in Montreal will be extradited to Canada from Panama after resisting for nearly two years.

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.

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.

Porter has successfully resisted extradition since 2013, but Canadian media reported on 17 January that Panama has now agreed to send Porter back.

His wife Pamela Mattock Porter was arrested in Panama with him, 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.

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

Porter has not had an easy time in prison in Panama. In August 2014 it was reported that he was trampled to unconsciousness during a prison riot. A trained physician, he has also claimed to be suffering from lung cancer following a self-diagnosis.

Plans to call the main road that curves up to the new health complex "Arthur Porter Way" have been abandoned.

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.

Riadh Ben Aissa was extradited to Canada in October from Switzerland, where he spent 29 months in prison for fraud, corruption and money laundering in connection with SNC-Lavalin’s business in Libya.

Ben Aissa acknowledged in court that he bribed Saadi Gaddafi, son of Libya’s late dictator, Moammar Gaddafi, so SNC could win contracts. Ben Aissa also admitted to pocketing commissions.

Others charged in connection to the MUHC case include St. Clair Armitage, a British consultant specializing in public-private partnerships who advised on the MUHC contract award, and Jeremy Morris, a Bahamian lawyer.

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