The RCMP denies dragging its feet in the fight against international corruption

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The RCMP defends itself from dragging its feet in the fight against international corruption

Criticized since years for its record in the fight against international corruption, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police says it now has a new weapon to unmask corporate offenders: remediation agreements.

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Last September, an RCMP investigation led to charges against the Quebec company Ultra Electronics Forensic Technology. Some of its executives allegedly instigated individuals to bribe decision makers in the Philippines to influence the awarding of a multi-million dollar contract.

The company was asked to negotiate a remedial agreement in exchange for the stay of charges. A Canadian first for an international corruption case.

It's really a tool that we've been missing in Canada and it's going to bring about a big positive change. It's something we were looking forward to, rejoices Stéphanie Rousseau, head of the RCMP's Anti-Corruption Team.

Before, the businesses had no reason to cooperate with the RCMP. So the investigations were even longer, she said in an interview with Radio-Canada this summer.

This tool allows Canadian companies that discover crimes committed by some of their employees to report it to the police without fear of being criminally charged and thus destroying the company, says his colleague Guy -Michel Nkili, head of operations for this elite unit which is the only one in the country to carry out investigations against international corruption.

The agreements allow companies to acknowledge their wrongdoing, pay a fine and put in place measures to better regulate their business practices.

“If the company doesn't obey the remediation agreement, it can go to trial.” »

— Stéphanie Rousseau, RCMP

Companies can thus continue to participate in public contracts, which avoids penalizing workers who have not committed crimes. Offending employees can still be sued individually.

The remediation agreement regime was put in place in 2018 in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The Quebec engineering flagship wanted at all costs to avoid a criminal conviction for paying bribes in Libya, which would have cut it off from public contracts in Canada and threatened thousands of jobs.< /p>

This type of agreement already exists in the United States and the United Kingdom.

We signed the OECD convention [on the fight against bribery of foreign public officials] in 1998. It is time for us to see results, deplores Susan Côté-Freeman, president of Transparency International Canada. This NGO published a report on this subject last October.

In 23 years, only one person and four companies have been convicted of international corruption in the country.

That's too little. It would be surprising if there weren't more cases, says Ms. Côté-Freeman.

It's not because we don't work fast or aren't competent. It's really the nature and complexity of the investigations that makes it not possible to do this quickly, explains Ms. Rousseau, who says that her team has the necessary resources to carry out its task. mandate.

Yes, our investigations are lengthy, but that's the nature of the crime. These are historic crimes. We have to follow the trail of the money. Trying to obtain documents of a financial nature from a crime that dates back 15 years is difficult, adds his colleague Guy-Michel Nkili.

The biggest hurdle we face is acquiring evidence from other countries, says Ms. Rousseau, adding that some countries refuse to cooperate with Canadian authorities.

That said, there is no statute of limitations for crimes of international corruption. If the crime happened 15 years ago, the person can be charged tomorrow morning, Rousseau says.

The president of Transparency International Canada says the public should have more information on the work of the RCMP. We don't have the statistics. It is not known what investigations are open. What's going on? It lacks transparency, says Ms. Côté-Freeman.

Talking about these investigations or giving figures would not be useful and it could really harm companies, which are often companies companies listed on the stock exchange, with shareholders, explains Ms. Rousseau.

Our success is the secret of our investigations. I think it's important that people trust us and then judge us based on our results, adds Guy Michel Nkili. [The remediation agreements], which we did not have before, will help us conclude several investigations more quickly.

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