Thursday, November 24 2022


OTTAWA –
RCMP anti-corruption investigators say they are investigating possible shady practices of several Canadian companies operating in parts of Africa, Eastern Europe and South America.

Companies involved in mining, infrastructure, aviation, railways, engineering and technology are susceptible to corruption, such as paying a bribe to secure a contract, according to the Mounted police force sensitive and international investigations section.

“These are all areas that are at risk,” said Staff Sgt. Stéphanie Rousseau, interim agent in charge of the section’s foreign anti-corruption team.

The team is tasked with investigating possible wrongdoing in violation of Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, which allows the RCMP to charge individuals or companies in substantially related cases. with Canada.

Rousseau hopes that Canadian companies are increasingly aware of the consequences of illegal behavior abroad.

“And we are making it known that this is no way of doing business,” she said in a recent interview, along with other members of the team.

The mounted police have another important message for Canadian businesses: If they detect any wrongdoing in their operations, report it to the RCMP.

Businesses now have an added incentive to do so, according to mounted police.

Federal legislation passed in 2018 gave prosecutors a tool, known as a redress agreement, to deal with a range of corporate economic crimes.

The idea is to hold organizations accountable for wrongdoing while avoiding some of the consequences of a criminal conviction for employees, shareholders and others who have done nothing wrong.

Society should accept responsibility for wrongdoing, pay a financial penalty, put in place compliance measures to prevent recurrence, and provide reparations to victims.

A judge will also need to be satisfied that the agreement is in the public interest and that the terms are just, reasonable and proportionate. If the judge approved the deal, the criminal prosecution would be suspended.

Redress agreements, also known as deferred prosecution agreements, became a big news in 2019 after Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin lobbied for such an agreement amid accusations of bribery and corruption. Libya-related business fraud – sparking political storm in Ottawa.

Despite this, the prospect of avoiding prosecution has prompted some Canadian companies to come forward, according to the RCMP, although the force does not provide numbers.

“With the advent of the remediation agreement regime in 2018, we have seen companies start to self-disclose, and we see it every year,” Rousseau said. “So we want to encourage that. “

Before the law, there was no benefit for companies to go to the police when questionable activity was brought to the attention of executives, said the RCMP Sgt. Matthieu Boulanger, anti-corruption investigator.

“And it was more of a ‘Well, we’re going to sit on it and if it’s not reported, isn’t investigated, then, you know, it’s one less thing to deal with. . ”

Now, Boulanger said, a company could inform the RCMP about a shady email involving the company or that an overseas agent suddenly receives higher commissions for no legitimate reason.

“Sometimes, after the investigation is over, we might go back to the company and say, ‘We don’t see crime here. So thank you for reporting and be on your way, ”he said.

Other times there might be more allegations. Ultimately, it would be up to prosecutors to decide whether a remedy agreement is warranted.

Self-report can help businesses that get caught up in wrongdoing overseas, but it can also make life easier for mounted police, as overseas corruption investigations can be complicated and time consuming. .

“These are complex cases,” Boulanger said. “So for us it is not uncommon to investigate a certain case for three years.”

In some parts of the world, RCMP officers have difficulty obtaining the necessary documentation from foreign officers, or there could ultimately be a lot of information to review.

“We are talking about terabytes of data that we have to go through to analyze and select what is relevant,” Rousseau said. “It can be a little frustrating at times, but it is necessary. “

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 8, 2022.

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