RCMP criminal investigation into Katz, Sheegl and Caspian over the Winnipeg Police HQ and Canada Post Building enters 5th year but no charges yet

Four years ago, RCMP raided the offices of Caspian Construction, the primary contractor on the police HQ project. The investigation into that project is ongoing. (CBC)

Feb 12 2019

Collection of CBC articles and some important questions not asked or left unanswered.

As RCMP investigation into Winnipeg’s police HQ enters 5th year, no sign of charges or when it will end

December 17, 2018

Archive of this and the related article plus RCMP statements below if needed.

CBC previously said RCMP had handed over everything it had gathered after two and a half years of investigating and charges were being sought. CTV said the same thing but later r the part about charges being sought and removed Katz from the article.

The CBC article was updated after the RCMP revised its original statement but they included them both and issued correction. The original short link to the article stopped working but the full link is active.

The City of Winnipeg has asked the courts to compel the RCMP to produce copies of all information, documents, notes and records the Mounties seized from Caspian Projects as part of a criminal investigation.

Similar was asked by Canada post but denied.

With the recent news of allegations of PMO pressure on the Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould before she demoted to cut a deal to avoid criminal charges against Montreal based SNC-Lavalin it makes one wonder if pressure has been put on the MB Justice Minister in the Katz, Sheegl and Caspian investigations.

Was there a discussion by Premier Brian Pallister with then Justice Minister Heather Stefanson about these allegations and pending charges? Pallister has said the government will not call a provincial inquiry as requested by Mayor Bowman or comment while the RCMP investigation is ongoing. That was over two years ago.

One would wonder after other serious allegations in the past against Katz involving the failed Crocus Fund, his Gold Eyes and others plus his two terms in office. He also had close business ties with Sheegl the CAO that was appointed who was later suspended but then allowed to resign and collect $560,000 in salary, severance and public paid pension.

Also why did Sheegl approve these payments to continue? To many unanswered questions.

The City of Winnipeg knew about problems with the Winnipeg police headquarters but continued to pay the contractor before they were all fixed, according to emails and a payment schedules obtained by CBC News.

RCMP-Statement-Original

Original RCMP statement about investigation into Wpg Police HQ and Canada Post building cost overruns

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3964566-Thursday-statement.html

RCMP-Statement-Revised

Revised RCMP statement about investigation into Wpg Police HQ and Canada Post building cost overruns

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3964565-Friday-statement.html

‘Criminal charges will be sought’ in Winnipeg police HQ, Canada Post mail plant probe

IMG_20190212_083531.jpg
RCMP raided Caspian Construction’s offices in December 2014. Officers seized 46 bankers boxes, four filing cabinets of documents, computer data and emails. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/criminal-charges-will-be-sought-in-winnipeg-police-hq-canada-post-mail-plant-probe-say-rcmp-1.4258806

Archive of the article below if needed and more important details including quotes and links to previous news articles saved here:

Charges pending in at least the Winnipeg Police HQ and Caspian Construction Corruption Scandals – is there more

More details

Archive

130 witnesses interviewed, 15 search warrants and production orders executed in 2 1/2-year investigation

** image of RCMP raid on Caspian Construction – above ***

CBC News has learned RCMP will be seeking charges against several people in connection with the construction of the Winnipeg police headquarters building and the Canada Post Mail Processing Plant near the Winnipeg James Richardson International Airport, according to an RCMP statement sent to CBC News on Thursday.

“While criminal charges will be sought against several individuals, the RCMP are not in a position to make any further comment,” said Tara Seel, RCMP spokesperson.

Late Friday afternoon, the Mounties said while the statement regarding possible charges was accurate it was “premature” because the investigation is still ongoing. RCMP cautioned their position could change by the time the police probe is complete.

This comes more than two and a half years after the Mounties first began to probe criminal allegations in the police HQ building project, and more than 18 months after they began looking into the Canada Post mail plant.

“The RCMP are near completion of their investigations into the Winnipeg Police Headquarters and the Canada Post Mail Processing Plant,” said Seel in a statement to CBC, but she would not give a specific timeframe.

The Mounties would not reveal who could be facing charges, but search warrants and production orders obtained by CBC News have named contractor Armik Babakhanians of Caspian Construction, office manager Pam Anderson, ex-City of Winnipeg CAO Phil Sheegl, consultants Peter Chang and Patrick Dubuc. All were suspected in various criminal offences ranging from fraud to breach of trust in court documents filed throughout the investigation. There’s no indication whether the anticipated charges are related to those suspicions. No charges have been laid and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

CBC asked if the files have been forwarded to the Crown as is the normal procedure in order for charges to be laid. Seel said “disclosure to Public Prosecutions has been ongoing for several months.”

As for why it’s taken this long to look into these two construction projects, RCMP said they had to be thorough in their probe.

“These investigations are very complex in nature and have required interviews with over 130 witnesses. In addition, the RCMP have executed at least 15 search warrants and production orders under the Criminal Code. The volume of evidence that has been collected in these investigations has impacted the time required to complete both investigations and disclose the evidence,” said Seel.

Evidence from 2 provinces

RCMP executed their first search warrant on Dec. 17, 2014 at Caspian’s office in south Winnipeg. In court documents they said officers seized approximately 46 bankers boxes and four filing cabinets of documents, representing thousands of financial documents, computer data that amounted to over six terabytes including 200,000 emails and hundreds of thousands of financial documents.

The Winnipeg Police Headquarters project was millions over budget and subject to a scathing City of Winnipeg audit prior to the RCMP investigation. (CBC News)

In June 2015, police raided an office inside the WPS HQ building occupied by engineering firm Adjeleian Allen Rubeli (AAR), which worked on the HQ construction project. There they seized four bankers boxes of documents, according to an August 2015 court document.

In June 2016 RCMP searched a Transcona warehouse owned by a numbered company controlled by Armik Babakhanians, the president of Caspian Construction, where they seized eight bankers boxes of records related to the construction of the Canada Post Mail Processing Plant.

The Mounties also got a number of production orders forcing financial institutions to hand over information and records on at least 14 different bank accounts. RCMP obtained a court order from an Ontario judge for Caspian’s backup computer data that an Ottawa-based company maintained on its servers, which — according to court records — amounted to approximtely 1.2 terabytes, or nearly a half million files.

To give the courts a better idea of how much work that would amount to, RCMP said an estimated 85,899,345 pages of word documents fill a terabyte.

“The problem is when you’re dealing with terabytes of data as they’ve referred to, is if you print it all out and stack it up it would be about to the CN tower in terms of height so there’s so many documents to go through,” John Sliter told CBC over he phone from his home in Ottawa Ontario. Sliter is a retired RCMP superintendent of capital markets and financial crime programs, who now works as a consultant.

He did not work on either the WPS HQ or the Canada Post mail plant investigation but as a former RCMP commercial crimes investigator he agreed to give some insight into these types of cases.

“Any fraud is tough to work with … tough to prove because you have to prove the criminal intent. That’s always the hard part,” said Sliter. “In many major cases in Canada, what we’ve found in the past that’s happened, is police have successfully proved that someone profited from a given scheme [but] did they have the criminal intent?”

Team of investigators

RCMP outlined their investigative team in a December 2015 Ontario court document. It included 10 Mounties, three of whom were seconded from the Federal Serious Organized Crime Unit. They also had four civilians, an analyst and a forensic accountant working on the two fraud cases.

The Mounties said a member of the D Division Technical Crime Unit also continued to assist in the investigations.

“The approach they’re taking on this is a good one,” said Sliter. “They’ve brought in suitable resources from different aspects including major case management which is always good.”

“Someone has done some considerable planning. Someone has put adequate resources behind the investigation and that’s proceeding,” said Sliter.

‘There are no hard and fast rules for how long an investigation can take,’ says defence lawyer Scott Newman. (CBC News)

“There are no hard and fast rules for how long an investigation can take,” said Scott Newman, spokesperson for the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba.

He said if a charge is laid it will ultimately be up to a judge to decide if the police investigation took too long.

“They are going to look at the complexity of the investigation, they are going to look to see how many documents there are. Are we talking tens of thousands of documents? How many witnesses are there? How many experts are there?” said Newman.

“It’s difficult to know until you get in front of a judge and you make your arguments.” He added the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal recently ruled a 10-year investigation was reasonable.

Chang and the lawyer representing Sheegl declined comment. Dubuc, Babakhanians and Anderson did not immediately respond to CBC’s request and have never spoken to CBC about the allegations made by the RCMP throughtout the investigation. In the past, Sheegl’s lawyer has said his client has done nothing illegal. Chang previously told CBC News he was cooperating with the investigation.

Read RCMP’s original statement, statement to other media, and Friday statement. (archived below if needed)

Clarifications

  • An earlier version contained the following RCMP statement sent to CBC News on Thursday. “While criminal charges will be sought against several individuals, the RCMP are not in a position to make any further comment.” Late Friday afternoon, RCMP spokesperson Tara Seel said while the statement is accurate it was “premature” to say charges will be sought because the investigations are not complete and cautioned that anything could happen between now and then. The original RCMP statement also contained the line “disclosure to Public Prosecutions has been ongoing for several months,” but was removed from comments issued to media outlets Friday afternoon.
    Aug 25, 2017 4:51 PM CT

Corrections

  • We initially reported that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled a 10-year investigation was reasonable. In fact, the ruling was made by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal.
    Aug 29, 2017 11:14 AM CT

Here is the tweet from the reporter in Aug 25 2017

Original followed by Revised RCMP statements:

From: Tara SEEL <tara.seel@rcmp-grc.gc.ca>
Date: Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 1:03 PM CDT
Subject: Re:
To: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca:

Hi Caroline,

The RCMP are near completion of their investigations into the Winnipeg
Police Headquarters and the Canada Post Mail Processing Plant. Disclosure
to Public Prosecutions has been ongoing for several months.

These investigations are very complex in nature and have required
interviews with over 130 witnesses. In addition. the RCMP have executed at
least 15 search warrants and production orders under the Criminal Code.
The volume of evidence that has been collected in these investigations has
impacted the time required to complete both investigations and disclose
the evidence. While criminal charges will be sought against several
individuals, the RCMP are not in a position to make any further comment.

Thanks
Tara

From: Tara SEEL <tara.seel@rcmp-grc.gc.ca>
Date: Thu, Aug 25, 2017 at 4:55:53 PM CDT
Subject: Re:
To: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca:

Hi Caroline,
This investigation is ongoing and disclosure Public Prosecution Services
is not complete. Any discussion of charges at this point is premature.

I apologize for speaking to that.

Tara

——————-

As RCMP investigation into Winnipeg’s police HQ enters 5th year, no sign of charges or when it will end

RCMP raided offices of police HQ contractor Caspian Construction on Dec. 17, 2014

*** Image of WPS Police HPQ above ***

Four years ago, RCMP raided the offices of Caspian Construction, the primary contractor on the police HQ project. The investigation into that project is ongoing. (CBC)

The RCMP investigation into Winnipeg’s police-headquarters project is entering its fifth year with no indication as to when it will conclude or whether any charges will be laid.

On Dec. 17, 2014, the RCMP raided the McGillivray Boulevard offices of Caspian Construction, the primary contractor on a project that saw Canada Post’s former downtown Winnipeg warehouse complex converted into the new home of the Winnipeg Police Service.

On the first day of the raid, the RCMP said they were conducting a criminal investigation of the police HQ project. That project cost the city $214 million in real estate and construction charges by the time it was completed in 2016.

The investigation, codenamed Project Dalton, initially involved fraud and forgery allegations. According to information provided to a judge in order to obtain search warrants in 2014, the Mounties alleged Caspian engaged in “numerous instances of improper invoicing and payments in regards to services rendered during the construction.”

The RCMP alleged in 2015 documents that Caspian owner Armik Babakhanians “used inflated and altered subtrade invoices and quotes to defraud the city of millions of dollars for work that was done at costs less than his fraudulent submitted costs.”

At the time, Babakhanians deferred comment to his legal counsel. He did not respond to requests for comment last week.

** image of RCMP raid on Caspian Construction – above ***

RCMP raided the McGillivray Boulevard offices of Caspian Construction on Dec. 17, 2014. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

In 2015, the RCMP told a judge they were investigating allegations Babakhanians offered police-HQ project manager Ossama AbouZeid a $600,000 secret commission to benefit Babakhanians and an engineering subcontractor.

AbouZeid told CBC News in 2016 he never asked for the commission, was never offered one and never received one.

“In all my working life I have never asked for monies outside my contractual entitlements,” AbouZeid said in a statement at the time.

Breach-of-trust allegations

The investigation later involved breach-of-trust allegations.

In information provided to a judge in 2016 in order to obtain bank records, the Mounties alleged former Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl provided inside information about the city’s new police headquarters to Caspian and received $200,000 — and that Sheegl then shared the money with Sam Katz, Winnipeg’s former mayor.

Lawyer Robert Tapper, representing both Sheegl and Katz, acknowledged in 2017 that Caspian owner Babakhanians paid Sheegl and that Sheegl paid Katz, but denied the RCMP’s breach-of-trust allegations.

Tapper said Caspian’s payment to Sheegl was part of a $327,000 Arizona real estate deal his clients made with Babakhanians in May or June 2011.

Tapper declined to respond to requests for comment last week.

None of the allegations made by the RCMP have been proven in court. No charges have been laid as a result of Project Dalton.

“The investigation is ongoing,” RCMP spokesperson Robert Cyrenne said last week.

He could not say when it will wind up or whether the Crown is contemplating any charges.

The City of Winnipeg is continuing to co-operate with the investigation, said Jeremy Davis, a spokesperson for Mayor Brian Bowman.

“We look forward to the outcome of the RCMP’s investigation,” said David Driedger, a spokesperson for the city’s public service.

With files from Caroline Barghout and Joanne Levasseur

About Kevin Yaworski

I use my blog to write about things I find interesting or that I think are matter of public interest.
This entry was posted in Financial, justice, News and politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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