MONTREAL — An ex-Liberal organizer convicted of fraud-related charges in connection with the federal sponsorship scandal was given a four-year prison term Wednesday.
Jacques Corriveau, who was previously described as the ”central figure” in the scandal, will also have 10 years to pay a fine of $1.4 million.
A jury found Corriveau guilty of three charges in November: fraud against the government, forgery and laundering proceeds of crime.
Corriveau, 83, was handcuffed and placed in the prisoner’s box after the sentence was read out.
His lawyer, Gerald Souliere, said he would seek his client’s immediate release pending an appeal of the sentence. He is already appealing the conviction.
“Mr. Corriveau never thought he would end his days in prison, that he would go to prison,” Souliere told reporters after the sentencing. “So, other than to say he’s stunned, there’s nothing else I can say.”
Prosecutors had suggested Corriveau serve between three and five years behind bars, while the defence was seeking a sentence in the community, citing his age and the lengthy delay in his case getting to trial.
The crimes he was convicted of occurred between 1997 and 2003 and were related to what became known as the sponsorship scandal, which eventually helped bring down the Liberal government in 2006.
The Crown alleged Corriveau set up a kickback scheme on contracts awarded during the sponsorship program and used his Pluri Design Canada Inc. firm to defraud the federal government.
Corriveau, who worked on ex-prime minister Jean Chretien’s Liberal leadership campaigns and was close to him, was accused of pocketing roughly $7 million in kickbacks.
The judge who headed the commission into the sponsorship scandal described Corriveau in his report about 10 years ago as the ”central figure” in the kickback scheme.
Crown prosecutor Jacques Dagenais said Corriveau’s involvement began at the very beginning of the program.
“He acted a bit as a sparkplug because he had the influence, he was among the first to be aware of the program, to be aware that there was a huge lot of money that wasn’t really managed in the standard way by the government,” Dagenais said.
“It was rather loosely managed by a small group of civil servants and he took advantage of that.”
Dagenais was pleased with the sentence.
“I would say it’s a very severe sentence, taking into account the maximum for influence trafficking is five years,” he told reporters. “So we’re quite close (to the maximum) for a man who has otherwise had an impeccable life.”
Corriveau was charged in December 2013 following an 11-year investigation.
In a motion filed in the Quebec Court of Appeal in December, Corriveau’s lawyers argued the trial judge erred by not invoking the lengthy delays to grant a stay of proceedings before the trial began this past fall.
The sponsorship program was created after the 1995 sovereignty referendum to increase the federal government’s presence in Quebec.
Ottawa’s inquiry into the program found that firms were winning contracts based on donations to the federal Liberals, with little work being done.
The Crown said it wouldn’t oppose Corriveau’s bid for bail.
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