(Translation by John Allore)
A secret fund escaping accountability, which even paid for the septic tank at the residence of a Quebec premier. A former director of the intelligence demoted who threatened to vent disturbing secrets in a letter addressed to Jean Charest. And a shredding session worthy of a spy novel in the head of the staff’s bathroom. The recent trial of three senior officers of the Sûreté du Québec has uncovered several embarrassing secrets of the national police.
The surprise box of secret expenses
They have been used over the years to pay money to informants or to rent premises to spy on criminals. Escaping all accountability, the SQ’s Secret Operating Expenses (DSO) also served more amazing purposes … like paying for the emptying of the septic tank at Premier Bernard Landry’s residence.
Called DSO in SQ jargon, these secret expenditures, described as indispensable tools for “not compromising the effectiveness of the police operation,” are currently at the heart of a criminal trial against three former senior officers accused of to be used to improve their pensions.
Ex-executives Alfred Tremblay and Steven Chabot acknowledge having benefited from it, but deny any criminal intent in their use, just like the former managing director Richard Deschesnes, who authorized them. The court has not yet ruled on this matter. The verdict is expected in the fall.
Their testimonies, as well as the documents made public in this trial, shed light on the mechanics of these ultra-discretionary disbursements.
1500 times a year
Good year, bad year, about 1500 of these DSO funds were authorized by the SQ. They could reach up to $ 100,000 each but escaped any provincial level of control. Neither the Treasury Board, nor the Public Administration Commission, nor parliamentarians were aware of the nature of these expenditures, nor did they have access to the associated documents that supported them. Even the accounting department of the SQ was not aware of it. Since May 2000, the SQ did not even have to authorize the maximum level of secret expenses allowed.
No government department or agency had such latitude.
Since their inception in 1975, DSOs have been used both to pay overtime to municipal police forces providing troops for the fight against bikers, and to purchase floppy disk boxes for the computer needs of a police officer.
But over the years, many inappropriate uses have been made, either by “desire to avoid delays”, “to avoid facing a refusal” or “hide the expense easily,” says the Crown in its written argument. An internal report commissioned by the SQ found a “general lack of rigor” and a “laxity in place for a number of years” in their management.
For example, the DSOs were used to purchase SQ-style pins for participants at an annual biker conference in 1995, or to pay fees to the College of Psychologists for certain professionals, because the administration refused to reimburse SQ employees.
The evidence shows that they were also used to pay for golf tournaments, flowers, alcoholic beverages, a crate of beer, cigarettes, a meal at the Hélène-de-Champlain restaurant and the purchase of a technical manual for a kayak and an air conditioner. DSOs were also used to commission surveys conducted by a major marketing firm and to pay advisory fees for the transformation of heritage buildings, alarm system fees for dignitaries, and even for subscriptions to the daily newspapers La Presse and Le Soleil.
The septic tank
In 2001, a DSO of $ 4,601 was used to pay part of the installation of a “750 gallons concrete septic tank” at the personal residence of Premier Bernard Landry in Verchères. The expense, approved by Robert Lafrenière while he was director of the Directorate for the Protection of Persons of the SQ, was justified during the trial by the fact that the Primier’s bodyguards permanently occupied a “local faction” of his residence and used the septic tank. Other secret expenses were used to pay for “supreme handkerchiefs”, paper towels and soap necessary for the maintenance of the warden’s quarters at the same residence.
One of the trial’s co-defendants, Alfred Tremblay, questioned the propriety of another covert expenditure that would have been used to empty the septic tank, in a letter he sent to Public Safety Minister Jacques Dupuis in 2009:
“Some people will find it normal to use the secret expenses of an organization to pay for the emptying of the septic tank of a political figure, while for others the gesture is immoral. It’s all about perception, “he wrote.
This expense should have been “spent differently”, he later said in his testimony.
This writing is at the heart of the evidence presented in court. It is part of a batch of letters containing a lot of information that Mr. Tremblay sent at the time to Premier Jean Charest, his Minister of Public Safety and Richard Deschesnes, Director General of the SQ from May 2008. Alfred Tremblay terminated this correspondence after negotiating with management a “secret agreement” of termination of employment, granting him $ 79,877 from the secret spending fund, according to the Crown.
Neither the Sûreté du Québec nor the office of the Minister of Public Security wanted to comment on the news, citing the ongoing trial. At most, we were informed that the Department of Public Safety has since appointed an auditor to ensure better accountability. During the trial, former Director General Martin Prud’homme stated that he revised the procedures during his tenure.
Disappearance of two “clandestine” agreements
In the form of a cash advance to the police, these extraordinary expenses had to be summarized at the time in a form that the investigators know as “042-042”. The only complete carbon copy of this form that the SQ kept was kept locked in a “secure and locked binder” in the exhibit room at SQ headquarters on Parthenais Street. Only one person, called “controller”, had access at the time.
From 2000 to 2012, of all the DSOs authorized by the SQ, only two were never found in the controller’s archives. These are the payments made to the accused Steven Chabot ($167,931) and Alfred Tremblay ($79,877), as part of what the Crown describes as “clandestine agreements” negotiated in a “circle of convenience” by which undue advantages were granted to certain former SQ executives “.
The fall of a former intelligence boss
Alfred Tremblay had a successful career at the Sûreté du Québec (SQ). Appointed director of investigations and security intelligence in 1996, he had access to the most delicate secrets of the state. As such, it was he who investigated the probity of people approached for the judiciary or positions of senior officials.
Alfred Tremblay also played a key role during the 2001 Summit of the Americas, preparing for 13 months the security component of the event, alongside the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). This summit brought together in Quebec City heads of state from some thirty countries, including US President George W. Bush.
But at the beginning of 2009, when he took the role of Chief Inspector (third rank in the SQ) at the Montérégie Regional Office of Investigation, Alfred Tremblay suffered a demotion. He learned of it on his return from sick leave.
The reprimands that are made to him – internal tensions within his team, difficulties of management – are rather vague.
Alfred Tremblay later acknowledged in a letter to Public Safety Minister Jacques Dupuis that “significant management challenges” to his team had come forward: “We have been able to see that some of our members were found in booths of some dancers’ clubs on their hours of work “and others bought“ alcoholic beverages at the corner store for consumption at work “and participated in” organized card games “during their shifts. Two shop stewards were sanctioned for these discrepancies.
Alfred Tremblay was then transferred to a much lower position as District Commander’s Advisor at the Candiac Highway Patrol. His mandate is vague. Claiming to be the victim of a “huge prejudice” which makes him look like a “vulgar thug who has committed serious acts“, he complains to his professional association. He complained that he had been left in an empty office, where he did not have access to a printer or a private telephone line. He complained that he was provided with an old company vehicle with “a poorly lit interior”.
“At this rate, I will not stay long. I think I’ll goo see a doctor to have me assigned to the CSST given this constant harassment. Or I’ll speak to the director or even the minister to stop these unfair practices that continue to destroy me with these people I’ve been around, “he wrote.
In the following months, Tremblay protests his transfer and files a complaint for psychological harassment. The director general of the police force, Richard Deschesnes, fearing that the situation would “degenerate and grow”, responded by assuring him that he was handling his complaint.
“Mr. Deschesnes wanted to prevent the case from being litigated, that many senior SQ officers would be called to testify in court. He was of the opinion that the SQ would not come out “with congratulations,” write the lawyers of the Director General in their testimony.
Alfred Tremblay nevertheless began a correspondence that contained information that “may be embarrassing, even compromising, for the general direction of the SQ and the government in place,” according to Crown filings.
Infiltrate “all layers of society”
On September 21, 2009, dissatisfied with the staff’s response to his complaint, Tremblay wrote his first letter to the Minister of Public Safety in which he called for an external investigation into his case. Alfred Tremblay says he has, throughout his career, accepted “to accomplish certain missions that went against [his] personal values”.
“On behalf of the Sûreté du Québec, I have agreed to infiltrate all layers of our democratic society, such as unions, lobby groups, religious sect, certain political groups, the Aboriginal communities of Quebec, and so on“, he writes.
Later, during the trial, he explains: “We do infiltration, we’ve always done, and I guess I can not say today, but maybe we still do, but still, it’s the bread and butter of these people [the security intelligence service]. “
In his letter to Minister Dupuis, he adds: “During my career, I have repeatedly informed the Sûreté du Québec staff of the commission of criminal acts. This is particularly true in Aboriginal communities where, by way of example, our undercover agents had purchased automatic weapons directly from certain suppliers inside the reserves, without any police intervention being carried out in the area. the goal of neutralizing these crimes. “
These facts, he explained during the trial, go back to 1996 and 1997. “Inaction and decisions not to follow suit went against my personal values,” writes Alfred Tremblay.
Letters to Jean Charest
In October and November, Alfred Tremblay wrote two letters to Premier Jean Charest to tell him about his situation. In one of them, he claims to have been “repeatedly witness to voluntary blindness” on the part of the SQ staff in the face of sensitive issues affecting politicians.
“I have seen multiple requests for information from some senior officers on sensitive cases involving high-profile political figures connected to prostitution rings or the relationship between criminal biker groups and certain members of the National Assembly as well as some very thorny issues related to state security.” – From the letter from Alfred Tremblay to Premier Jean Charest
At the trial, Alfred Tremblay explained that investigations of this kind were frequent, but will not provide more details. “For years, my bread and butter was informing the government” of this kind of information, he testified. “Every day, I had requests. We answered, there were encrypted networks, there are special communications. So, that was it. That was my mission to the Sûreté du Québec. “
The trial also showed that Alfred Tremblay kept a record of confidential information collected at his office, which the Crown claims he kept “seeking to obtain advantage”.
From the beginning of Alfred Tremblay’s correspondence with the Premier, and his Minister of Public Security, the SQ’s internal affairs department was involved in the file.
The director at the time, Jocelyn Latulippe, obtained a legal opinion from an external firm which concluded that there was serious disciplinary misconduct. “Mr. Tremblay has betrayed his oath of secrecy by disclosing confidential information acquired in the exercise of his duties, without being duly authorized,” says lawyer Ariane Pasquier, who wrote the opinion.
“Given the content and tone employed by Mr. Tremblay” in these letters, “we recommend he be disciplined”. Mr. Pasquier adds that Mr. Tremblay attempted to “undermine the credibility of the Sûreté” and “to question the integrity of the organization”.
At the trial, however, Chief Executive Officer Richard Deschesnes said the investigation into Alfred Tremblay’s allegations did not go further. “Mr. Latulippe [has] checked [and informed me] that there is nothing criminal. “
As for the allegations made by Mr. Tremblay of willful blindness, infiltration and morally questionable acts, it is impossible to know whether they have been the subject of further examination. Contacted by La Presse, the communications department of the Sûreté du Québec did not want to comment, nor did the cabinet of the Minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, invoking the trial still being in progress.
“We had the impression that it was more of a blackmail on his part,” summed up the boss of internal affairs, Jocelyn Latulippe, in a sworn affidavit on file.
In his written argument, the Crown believes that Alfred Tremblay has “no credibility, both on the periphery and the elements that are at the heart of the case.” “He has been lying shamelessly and repeatedly in court,” say prosecutors Antoine Piché and Pascal Grimard.
Alfred Tremblay’s lawyers, however, urge the court to be cautious in assessing credibility. The letters he wrote “are private” and “do not involve any threat or demand for money, or anything other than the frustration of a fallen policeman,” they point out.
A “strange denouement”
The last letter from Alfred Tremblay to Jean Charest, which was first sent to the staff, was never sent to the Premier. On November 25, 2009, the Director of Internal Affairs informed Alfred Tremblay that his mailing would violate his oath of allegiance and discretion.
Two weeks later, however, Alfred Tremblay’s correspondance has “a strange and surprising outcome,” says the Crown in its argument. SQ Deputy Director General Steven Chabot summons Alfred Tremblay to a restaurant. “He wants to discuss with me the letter I sent to Jean Charest, there is a line in the letter that is problematic,” wrote Alfred Tremblay in his electronic diary, which was filed in evidence.
In the days following this meeting, the two police officers negotiate and conclude a termination agreement for Alfred Tremblay. It provides for the payment of $79,877 in return for his retirement. The money will come from the secret operating expenses fund (DSO). According to the Crown, Mr. Tremblay did not declare it to the tax department.
Driven to retirement by a reorganization of the staff, Steven Chabot negotiates for himself a similar retirement agreement, by which he receives $167,931 from the secret fund. In his argument, Mr. Chabot asserts that this agreement, concluded “as indemnities for damages recognized by the SQ”, was legal and negotiated in good faith.
Without the vigilance of SQ accountant Denis Rivest and other police officers and civilian employees, traces of these agreements may never have been found. Suspecting that they were severance pay rather than secret expenses, the latter kept copies of the forms at home.
“The only time in his career at the SQ that Rivest doubted DSO, and brought copies back to his home,” says the Crown in his argument.
The shredders of the estate
It’s getting late, October 10, 2012. The 11th floor of the headquarters of the Sûreté du Québec is practically deserted. Only three people are there: the former director general Richard Deschesnes, who was fired the day before by the government, his administrative assistant and his bodyguard.
The atmosphere is sad. Replaced without notice by Mario Laprise, Richard Deschesnes picked up his personal belongings earlier: photos, notes, medals he had received, plants, which he and his assistant put in brown boxes with the Quebec logo of the fleur de lis. The bodyguard, Stéphane Desrochers, helps him down to his car parked in the basement, a black leather briefcase in hand.
At the middle of the staff floor, from a small printing room right in front of the Director General’s office comes the humming of a shredder.
Administrative Assistant Danielle Bouchard is busy destroying a stack of documents that Richard Deschesnes has sorted out of his archives and given to him in a recycling bin.
The boss is in the “vault”, the director general’s archive room, located right next to his office. Locked electronically and monitored by an alarm system, it contains many ultra-confidential documents. Only the DG and she have the code to access it.
In a small bathroom adjacent to the “vault” is another smaller shredder, which was installed right next to the sink. But Ms. Bouchard does not witness what happens there.
“Anyway, I would not have been in the … in the DG’s bathroom,” she will later testify during the trial.
The bodyguard is also put to use. Richard Deschesnes gives him a “package of documents” six or seven centimeters thick. “He asked me that I take the documents and shred them,” the bodyguard said in court. He will leave the office “closer to midnight” than “seven in the evening,” he recalls.
Neither the bodyguard nor the assistant have detailed memories of the documents they destroyed during the evening. But the assistant, Danielle Bouchard, remembers having shredded a “big binder” containing a very precise file of which there were several duplicates: that of Richard St-Denis.
Former deputy director of criminal investigations who retired in 2006 after filing a complaint for constructive dismissal and psychological harassment, Richard St-Denis is part of what senior management calls the “red files”, senior officers with whom ‘we wanted to break the employment relationship’ since they no longer matched the management model of management ‘. According to the Crown, management negotiated with them, “in the greatest secrecy and without the knowledge of any other intervenor“, agreements providing for amounts from the general expenses of the SQ (rather than secret expenses).
The parties agree that documents dealing with six similar “red files” should in principle be in the “vault” of the Director General. They have never been found there.
The secret spending agreements confirming the payment of $79,877 and $167,931 to the accused Alfred Tremblay and Steven Chabot were also to be kept there. They “have never been found either,” says the Crown in its argument.
The alarm system log however reveals that “Richard Deschesnes has accessed it every time the documents relating to the agreements of Chabot and Tremblay have been classified,” says the Crown. The day the special expense forms were completed, March 17, 2010, is “the day that Richard Deschesnes most often accessed the records of the CEO of all his mandate,” adds the pleading.
“Only Richard Deschesnes knows what happened to these documents,” says the Crown.
Richard Deschesnes says in his own argument that he shredded only protected documents specifically addressed to him that day, “such as reports from the Security Intelligence Branch, threat assessments, reports on the protection of the State, Confidential Information Reports “, as well as documents relating to the Summit of the Americas.
“These papers could not be thrown in the trash,” he defends himself.
That evening, Richard Deschesnes handed over his service gun to Martin Lévesque, the director of financial resources, who is among those who will denounce, a few days later, the irregularities surrounding the secret agreements to the new director general, Mario Laprise.
“The disappearance of documents is not the work of the Holy Spirit,” Crown attorneys say.
The “Red Files” of the Surete du Quebec
It is not easy to slay a senior officer of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ). With guaranteed job security up to age 65, a dozen of them have negotiated very specific clauses over the years before agreeing to retire.
These termination agreements, known as “red files”, mainly benefited Deputy Directors General and Chief Inspectors, the two highest ranks in the police force. They “were certainly not” common practice “at the SQ,” but were generally concluded “in the greatest secrecy and without the knowledge of any other intervener,” says the Crown in its argument.
One of the 12 examples cited during the trial is that of former Director General Normand Proulx. After concluding his five-year term in 2008, he and his successor, Richard Deschesnes, signed an agreement allowing him to retain his executive director salary of approximately $190,000 for 17 months.
During this period, Mr. Proulx was to help establish Francopol, an international network of French-language police training, as a special advisor.
However, “Normand Proulx has never been offered work services since the appointment of Richard Deschesnes on May 21, 2008, neither to the SQ nor to Francopol,” says the Crown in its argument.
“Mr. Proulx was available, but Francopol did no work,” said Richard Deschesnes during his testimony in the trial. Mr. Deschesnes said he had said so at the time to the deputy minister responsible for senior government jobs. “Discussions I had with [him], I understood that it was correct like that. “
Joined by La Presse, Normand Proulx’s lawyer, Rachel Risi, refused to comment on behalf of his client.
After his dismissal, which he described as an “improper dismissal,” Richard Deschesnes also attempted to negotiate a similar severance package with his successor, Mario Laprise. A draft agreement in evidence suggests that he tried to maintain his employment relationship for 19 months after leaving, as well as his 30-month CEO salary, says the Crown.
Mr. Deschesnes states in his argument that the agreement was “in the interest of the SQ since it was difficult” to relocate “within the organization.
Such an agreement would, he pleads, ensure “his departure from the SQ with dignity”.
Faced with Mario Laprise’s refusal to grant him these benefits, Mr. Deschesnes tried to “put pressure” by saying he was going to address the Premier Pauline Marois and her Minister of Public Security, Stéphane Bergeron , to ask for their intervention, indicates the Crown. M. Deschesnes intended to mention in his draft letter that he contested his dismissal as illegal.
“Ironically, although Mario Laprise never followed up on the agreement that Richard Deschesnes was looking for, he did not send the letter to the Premier or the Minister of the MSP,” notes the Crown.
- With the collaboration of Daniel Renaud and Louis-Samuel Perron