POLITICS

Quebec police say positive ID of Porter's body in Panamanian morgue will wait

07/06/2015 04:47 EDT | Updated 07/06/2016 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - The positive identification by Quebec authorities of suspected fraudster Arthur Porter's remains will have to wait until at least Tuesday, a spokeswoman says.

Investigators from Quebec's anti-corruption unit were granted entry to the morgue in Panama City on Monday afternoon, but informed they'd only be able to view the body.

Spokeswoman Anne-Frederick Laurence said DNA and fingerprint analysis will be held at the earliest on Tuesday and that visual identification alone likely wouldn't be enough to convince Canadian authorities.

News that Porter had died last week has been treated with heavy skepticism by authorities in the province where he faces fraud charges.

Porter's biographer, doctor and relatives have said he succumbed to cancer in Panama, where he'd been detained since May 2013.

But without official confirmation from Panamanian officials or an independent source, Quebec authorities sent two of their own on Friday to see first hand.

Porter is one of several people facing charges stemming from the awarding of a $1.3-billion contract to build a superhospital in Montreal which officially opened this year.

The alleged $22.5-million fraud has been described by one Quebec provincial police investigator as one of the largest corruption cases in Canadian history.

The prosecutor involved has said she won't close the books on Porter's criminal proceedings — charges that include fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and breach of trust — without confirmation of his passing.

A preliminary hearing was held earlier this year for the other co-accused in the case.

Porter, 59, denied any wrongdoing while he fought extradition to Canada from a Panamanian prison over the past 26 months as he battled self-diagnosed terminal cancer.

In May, he was transferred to a cancer clinic where he was receiving treatment. His doctor said he'd been treating himself while imprisoned.

A report in Montreal La Presse on Monday from a journalist outside the morgue noted the Quebec investigators entered the building, but Laurence said it was too early to say if they'd seen the body.

She added that a formal request to repatriate Porter's remains is being considered.

"We'll start by identifying the body first and after that we'll see what's necessary and what isn't," Laurence said. "We'll judge accordingly ... it could be an option, but that doesn't mean it's the avenue that will be chosen."

Porter was the former head of Montreal's McGill University Health Centre and was also once appointed head of Canada's spy watchdog agency by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.