It has all the markings of a TV drama – RCMP raiding anotherpolice force’s union office, sealed court allegations of money laundering, members of the union executive facing criminal investigation, suspension and a scandal that has rocked Ontario Provincial Police.
Unfortunately for the OPP, these allegations of allegations of fraud, breach of trust and money laundering are aimed at top union managers, who are all still OPP officers.
The headlines in Toronto newspapers screamed:
As a result of a complaint, 13 search warrants were executed on March 6 at a number of locations, including at the OPP Association’s head office in Barrie, Ont., and at a number of people’s homes.
The OPP Association issued a news release the following Monday.
“The RCMP is conducting a criminal investigation and believed that evidence to support its investigation could be found in the OPP Association Head Office as well as the offices of President Christie, Vice President Bain and CAO Walsh,” said the release. “The Association has fully cooperated with the RCMP investigation by providing them with the items identified in their search warrant.”
The statement also said “in the best interests of the Association and its membership” that union President Christie and Vice-President Bain were taking “voluntary leaves of absence from the OPP Association.”
Walsh was placed on administrative leave at the time, but it was revealed in a Globe and Mail report that Walsh has since been fired.
Walsh and Bain are both constables, while Christie is a detective sergeant. All were seconded from the OPP to allow them to work for the association, and are still being paid by the provincial police force.
On Friday, OPP Commissioner J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes ordered Christie, Bain and Walsh suspended from duty under Section 89 (1) of the Police Services Act, said a statement sent to Yahoo Canada News.
“The OPP will not be commenting further on the continuing RCMP investigation,” police said in the statement.
At the centre of the allegations, according to the unproved affidavit from the RCMP, is a sophisticated financial scheme involving a travel company, a consulting firm and high-risk offshore investments, “to profit and deceive” their members, putting their union in peril, reported the Toronto Star.
Among the alleged investments:
Two beachside condos in the Bahamas valued at $1.5 million and $625,000
$100,000 in union money wired to an income fund in the Cayman Islands
OPPA switch to a travel agency allegedly owed by Christie, Bain and Walsh
The allegations claim theft, breach of trust, fraud and laundering the proceeds of crime, the Star reported on Sunday after the RCMP document was unsealed on Friday.
“(Christie, Bain and Walsh) have made numerous decisions that demonstrate an intentional lack of stewardship and accountability,” the paper quoted RCMP Sgt. Gordon Aristotle as writing in the petition to the court for permission for the Mountie raids on the OPPA office, union vehicles and residences of Christie, Bain and Walsh, and more.
“I believe they have financially benefited from their actions, breached the trust of the OPPA membership and placed the OPPA and its membership at a significant financial risk,” Aristotle concluded in the document.
Const. Jean Juneau, a spokesman for the RCMP, confirmed the investigation to the National Post at the time of the raids, but he would not describe the nature of the allegations.
Nobody else at the centre of the investigation is talking either – no one returned calls or emails from Yahoo Canada News. All of the media reports are based on allegations contained in the RCMP affidavit – which have not been tested in court.
In addition to this week’s development that Christie, Bain and Walsh had stepped aside, reports also said included in the investigation are former police officer and Toronto criminal lawyer Andrew McKay, as well as partners in the First Response travel company Noel Francis Chantiam and Klara Kozak.
According to the Star, the affidavit claims McKay, Kozak and Chantiam are alleged to have committed fraudulent concealment and laundering proceeds of crime and fraud.
The probe began after four members of the police union approached the OPP last October after growing concerned about questionable activities, the RCMP affidavit states, according to the Star.
Aristotle wrote in the affidavit, “The totality of the alleged behaviour demonstrates an ongoing breach of trust … by Walsh, Bain and Christie that has escalated in sophistication and significance.”
Acting OPPA president Doug Lewis said in a statement to the Toronto Star that he was “saddened and shocked to learn of the allegations contained in the document.”
Lewis said the association is doing its own independent internal investigation through the international legal firm Stikeman Elliott.
The newspaper said the OPPA issued a message to its more than 6,000 members reminding them “the RCMP investigation is in early stages, and … no charges have been laid.”
The investigation continues.