Hospital exec pleads guilty to taking bribes for contract award

A senior hospital executive in Montreal pleaded guilty this week to accepting bribes amounting to CAN$10m for helping ensure the contract to build a major new hospital went to a consortium led by Canadian construction company SNC-Lavalin.

Yanaï Elbaz, 49, was the assistant director general of planing and real estate management for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), and sat on the committee charged with hiring the group that would build the CAN$1.3bn so-called superhospital.

In a Quebec court on 26 November he pleaded guilty to charges including breach of trust, conspiracy and recycling the proceeds of crime, reports The Montreal Gazette.

In all, it is alleged that CAN$22.5m in bribes were channeled from former executives at SNC-Lavalin, who won the CAN$1.3bn contract to build the new MUHC in 2010.

Elbaz was right-hand man to Arthur Porter, the former director of the MUHC, who died in prison in Panama in 2015, before he could be extradited to Canada where he was charged with orchestrating the scam, thought to be one of Canada’s biggest corruption cases.

According to the Gazette, Elbaz admitted to supplying SNC-Lavalin with inside information, and influencing the selection committee.

Porter and Elbaz set up a system of shell companies to stash the funds, the Gazette said.

After Elbaz made the pleas the judge adjourned for sentencing next week, with the defence and prosecution agreeing to recommend a 39-month prison sentence.

Former SNC-Lavalin chief executive Pierre Duhaime is still awaiting trial, which is set to begin in January, reports state broadcaster CBC.

Photograph: McGill University Health Centre under construction in 2014 (Jeangagnon/Creative Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)  

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