*Editor’s note: Story originally published March 12, and is updated as one of our most popular posts of 2015.
Anti-corruption agents of the government of Quebec arrested seven individuals suspected of involvement in what has been described by officials as a scheme designed to favour certain technology companies in obtaining a lucrative government contract.
Quebec’s anti-corruption squad (UPAC) said yesterday that two other suspect are still being sought by police but said two Revenue Quebec employees, identified as Hamid Jatmanene and Jamal El Khaiat have been charged with providing privileged information about a upcoming government contract worth $24 million to a consortium made up of IBM and Informatique EBR Inc. of Quebec. The contract in question involves the supply of IT products for a Revenue Quebec data management system.
Early Wednesday morning, some 50 officials with the UPAC carried out simultaneuous raids on several homes in the greater Montreal area and in Quebec City.
“…two officials who were in charge of strategic Revenue Quebec have provided before the launch of a call for tenders, privilege information to the IBM-EBR consortium,” a press statement released by Robert Lafreriere, commissioner of UPAC. “The latter would have used that information in his favour in the preparation of its bid to obtain said public contract.”
Lafreriere said that UPAC has been investigating lucrative IT contracts in the area. UPAC is still looking for an eight and final suspect idenified as Daniel Letourneau.
The other persons arrested were Mohamed El Khayat and Jean-Francois Robidas. The two men were directors of the EBR at the time of the alleged crime. The UPAC also identified three employees of IBM, Patrick Fortin, Gilles Gariepy and Daniel Latourneau among those arrested.
A UPAC officer said that although the spelling of their surnames are spelled differently in documents provided yesterday, Mahamed El Khayat and Jamal El Khaiat of the Revenue Quebec are actually brothers.
IBM said it will co-operate with the UPAC.
“IBM is committed to the principles of business ethics and lawful conduct,” a spokesperson for the company said. “We will continue to co-operate fully with local authorities investigating this matter.”
Denis Blais, president of EBR, said he was “in shock” after learning of what Robidas, vice-president of EBR, was being accused of.
“I’m speechless about the news and I assure the full cooperation of my business towards UPAC,” he said in a statement released yesterday. “…it is important to remember that, in the words of the captain of UPAC, André Boulanger, the employee would have acted without the company being aware of the scheme.”
Blais said the alleged corrupt activities took place from March 2011 to June 2014.
“Mr. El Khayat was thanked for his services last June, and Mr. Robidas was suspended from his duties at Informatique EBR this morning,” he said. “Informatique EBR has been accredited by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) on February 24th for his contracts with the government of Quebec. This accreditation certifies that Informatique EBR meets the highest standards of integrity.”
The treasury board confirmed that EBR was reviewed by the AMF, the securities regulator of Quebec, two weeks ago and had been approved to bid for government contracts. The president of the treasury board said the AMF was not aware of the UPAC investigation at that time.