12/19/2012 01:19 EST | Updated 02/18/2013 05:12 EST

Quebec Anti-corruption Squad Nets 49 Arrests, 175 Charges For 2012


MONTREAL - Quebec's anti-corruption squad has produced a list of its activities from 2012 — and what a list it is.

Forty-nine people arrested. Criminal charges against 13 companies. One-hundred and seventy-seven different charges laid. And arrest warrants issued 450 times.

Those are the numbers laid out at a news conference today by Robert Lafreniere, head of the provincial unit created last year.

But he suggests his squad is just getting warmed up.

"Acts of collusion and corruption exist everywhere in Quebec — in every region. Our investigations are proving this to us," Lafreniere told a news conference.

"We have discovered new stratagems that I will reveal at the appropriate moment."

He said more than 20 ongoing investigations touch on areas outside the construction industry into things like contracts for computer technology and work related to the Plan Nord. That's the provincial project to develop mining, tourism and infrastructure in the north.

The arrests so far have dealt essentially with alleged wrongdoing in the construction industry at the municipal level — with charges laid against the mayors of two small towns and the mayor of Laval resigning after his homes and offices were searched.

Lafreniere was asked whether his unit is also investigating activity at the federal or provincial level.

He replied that the ongoing investigations are looking into municipal and provincial activity.

"Corruption does not simply affect the construction industry and our field of intervention is vast. Our investigations are leading us to areas as diverse as computer technology, the hospital sector, the Plan Nord and infrastructure," he said.

Details of suspected fraud in the hospital sector have already emerged publicly. A $2.3 billion hospital project was at the centre of fraud charges laid late last month against Pierre Duhaime, the former chief executive of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

Lafreniere said 3,500 people have been questioned as part of ongoing investigations.

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