Richard Deschênes: The prosecution alleges former head of the SQ misused secret funds designated for police operations. Pierre Obendrauf / Montreal Gazette
By Pierre Saint-Arnaud
It was in 1975 that Quebec’s Treasury Board gave the first secret operating funds to the Sûreté du Québec, but it ceded full control to its director as of October 1995. Before that point, all expenses exceeding $5,000 had to be approved by the deputy minister of Quebec’s public security department.
The clerk of the Treasury Board, Marie-Claude Rioux, testified Wednesday at the trial of three former senior managers of the SQ, related to the secret operational fund of the police corps.
The former director of the SQ, Richard Deschênes, as well as inspectors Steven Chabot and Alfred Tremblay are accused of fraud, theft and abuse of confidence.
The prosecution alleges that Deschênes illegally authorized the granting of severance packages to Chabot and Tremblay of $167,931 and $79,877 respectively, taken from the secret funds that were dedicated to police operations and were to be used to pay informers.
Rioux explained that the first secret fund, created in 1975, went up to $250,000. It was an exceptional measure allowing the SQ to spend money in a completely confidential manner for sensitive cases.
Documents justifying the expenses were to be kept in the SQ’s vault and thus not be seen by the financial controller so they would not become public.
The funds saw a progressive rise to $740,000 in 1990, but the SQ demanded and obtained, the same year, another secret fund of $6 million dedicated to fighting organized crime.
In 1995, the head of the SQ obtained full power to authorize expenses and the deputy minister’s signature was no longer required.
“It was a sign of confidence,” Rioux told the court. “We gave him the authority, but also the accountability that went with it.”
That confidence grew to the point that finally the SQ was given the authority to determine how much money would go toward the secret fund account from its own budgets. Rioux testified the SQ was given a special amount of free rein where they had full power and were left to manage the funds internally.
In cross-examination, the defence tried to argue that the SQ director enjoyed full autonomy to manage the funds, but the clerk responded that if a director “takes secret funds for expenses that are not related to matters of security, he stretches his autonomy to the point that he is no longer respecting the directives of the Treasury Board.”
Lawyers tried to argue that the director may not have been aware of the directives because the SQ had not had to ask permission since 2000, but Rioux responded that the Treasury Board had never repudiated that the secret funds were for investigations.
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