POLITICS

Preliminary hearing to last three weeks in Montreal superhospital fraud case

03/16/2015 01:25 EDT | Updated 05/16/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - A preliminary hearing has begun for several people accused in connection with an alleged bribery scandal related to a $1.3 billion hospital project in Montreal.

Authorities say the awarding of the contract for the McGill University Health Centre project was the subject of an alleged fraud of $22.5 million.

They have alleged that former SNC-Lavalin executives funnelled money to ex-McGill hospital officials in exchange for the lucrative contract.

Among those charged are former McGill hospital executives Arthur Porter and Yanai Elbaz as well as ex-SNC Lavalin head Pierre Duhaime and former vice-presidents, Riadh Ben Aissa and Stephane Roy.

Also charged are Jeremy Morris, administrator of a Bahamas-based investment firm, and St-Clair Martin Armitage, a public-private partnership expert hired by the hospital authority.

Another accused, Yohann Elbaz, Yanai's brother, opted to go directly to trial on Monday.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Marie-Helene Giroux said they are waiting to see if Porter is extradited to Canada from Panama, where he's currently jailed.

Giroux will present 16 witnesses between now and April 2 and Quebec court Judge Salvatore Mascia will ultimately decide if there is sufficient evidence to send the other six accused to trial.

"I'm trying to prove there's a reasonable foundation to the accusations and they should all be committed to trial," Giroux told reporters, adding evidence should be completed by April 2.

Porter's wife Pamela was also charged and pleaded guilty to two counts of laundering the proceeds of crime and was sentenced to 33 months at the end of 2014.

The evidence presented during the preliminary hearing is under a publication ban.