NEWS

Bribery allegations 'over the top': Ghiz

09/15/2011 09:09 EDT | Updated 01/12/2012 02:10 EST

Allegations of bribery and fraud over how his government administered an immigrant investment program are ridiculous, says Premier Robert Ghiz.

The federal government is asking the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to investigate allegations of fraud and bribery in an immigrant investor program on P.E.I.

Three former provincial employees passed on the allegations regarding the program, which was part of the Provincial Nominee Program.

The allegations are contained in documents prepared by three former provincial employees:

- Cora Plourd, who worked with Island Investment Development Inc., which administered the immigrant investor program.

- Svetlana Tenetko, who also worked for Island Investment Development Inc.

- Susan Holmes, who worked for the Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning, the department that oversaw Island Investment Development Inc.

CBC News received the documents earlier this week, but did not receive proof of the allegations. The story broke when the Globe and Mail learned from Canada Immigration that it was referring the documents to the RCMP.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney would not agree to an interview with CBC News Thursday.

The documents target senior bureaucrats in the Liberal government, which is in the midst of an election campaign. The Liberals say the case is being orchestrated by the provincial Progressive Conservative party.

In a news release, the party noted Plourd has Tory connections. She is a former president of the Malpeque Conservative Association, and ran unsuccessfully for a PC nomination in the 2007 provincial election.

CBC News has a copy of the documents, and one of them is witnessed by PC candidate Martie Murphy.

'Over the top'

Ghiz said the allegations come from disgruntled employees, and many are ridiculous.

"It talks about a lot of different wild accusations in there," he said.

"Whether or not it's talking about the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island being corrupt, or talking about the CBC hiding things or talking about myself stealing $100 million. You have to put everything in context. I think a little bit of it is a little bit over the top."

Plourd spoke to CBC News outside RCMP headquarters in Charlottetown.

"I'm not going to say anything right now, but we will talk," she said after being asked about the documents.

"We wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't true."

Political football

The provincial Progressive Conservative Party took out a large ad in the Charlottetown Guardian Thursday morning, directing people to "See what the Globe and Mail had to report about this international embarrassment."

The story was on the front page ofthe Globe on Thursday.

The Progressive Conservatives said the Guardian ad was booked weeks ago, and was meant to lead readers to a site outlining previous Globe coverage of PNP. Its appearance on the same morning, said the party, was a coincidence. Given the story in the Globe, the party said it took down the material it had originally intended to present.

Leader Olive Crane said the ad was part of a plan to highlight an issue she has long had an interest in.

"Since 2008 I've asked questions in the spring and fall sessions on PNP in our legislature," said Crane.

"I had strong concerns then about the present administration's mismanagement and they're even stronger now."

The Provincial Nominee Program has been a political football on the Island for several years.

The immigrant investor portion of PNP allowed potential immigrants to invest in a local business as part of the agreement allowing them to immigrate. It ran from 2001 to 2008, and for the most part quietly, with a few hundred immigrants coming to the Island each year.

In 2008, Canada Immigration told the provincial government the program would be shut down in September, and almost 2,000 immigrants were rushed through the application process. There were widespread allegations of political connections being used to access the investment money.

Four MLAs and several senior bureaucrats or their family members were found to have accessed immigrant money. One bureaucrat returned it. The provincial auditor general found there was an appearance conflict of interest, but no actual conflict of interest in the case.

Last week, Progressive Conservative Leader Olive Crane promised a full investigation into PNP if her party wins the Oct. 3 election.

MORE:cbcNews