03/06/2013 12:35 EST | Updated 05/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Cancer centre dumps Porter over concerns about health, fraud allegations

OTTAWA - Arthur Porter has been ousted from a major Caribbean medical project over concerns about his health and the fraud allegations he faces in Canada.

The former spy watchdog's woes precipitated his departure this week from a multimillion-dollar cancer centre being built in Antigua and Barbuda.

"In light of ... Arthur Porter's recently diagnosed advanced lung cancer and media reports related to concerns in Canada, Dr. Porter has graciously suggested the transfer of the chairmanship," said a government release.

Porter had been chair of the Cancer Centre Eastern Caribbean project being built in the Antigua and Barbuda capital of St. John's. One of his associates will now take over the project.

He is also stepping down as the centre's managing director and head of radiation oncology, the release adds, "while a permanent replacement is sought pending the outcome and hopefully favourable resolution of Dr. Porter's health and other concerns."

Porter, who now lives in the Bahamas, is caught up in allegations swirling around a billion-dollar mega-hospital development in Montreal. The Canadian government is trying to extradite Porter — a medical doctor self-diagnosed with cancer — from the Bahamas.

Oritta Zachariah, a medical officer at Antigua and Barbuda's health ministry, was aware of Porter's plight but declined to comment on his replacement.

"The most I can say is that I would have heard what you may have heard," Zachariah told The Canadian Press.

The Antigua and Barbuda cancer centre is being modelled after the clinic Porter runs in the Bahamas. It was supposed to have been built months ago, but construction only got underway this week.

The Antigua and Barbuda government acknowledges the $5-million project has faced "many delays" since it was announced nearly a year ago.

Besides his endeavours in Antigua and Barbuda and the Bahamas, Porter also puts in time at a medical clinic in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Porter, who denies any wrongdoing, has not returned a message left with a receptionist at his clinic in the Bahamas.

Porter is among five people named in arrest warrants issued by Quebec's anti-corruption squad in the McGill hospital case. Also named are former SNC Lavalin senior executives Pierre Duhaime and Riadh Ben Aissa, Yanai Elbaz and Jeremy Morris, the administrator of a Bahamas-based investment company.

The warrants say the men are wanted on numerous charges, including fraud, breach of trust and document forgery.

The allegations have raised questions about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to appoint Porter to the Security Intelligence Review Committee in 2008. He rose quickly to SIRC chair before resigning in November 2011 after reports surfaced about his past business dealings.

In addition to heading SIRC, Porter was also director general of the McGill University Hospital Centre when the alleged fraud occurred.

The Conservatives insist the fraud allegations have nothing to do with Porter's role at SIRC. Opposition parties are now calling for Harper to remove Porter from the Privy Council.

Porter has also come under fire for his political donations. Public records show he gave the federal Conservatives $2,200 while at SIRC against Privy Council Office guidelines.

He is the only former SIRC chair to give money to a political party in recent years. Other former SIRC members say they were pointedly told not to donate.