Thursday, January 31, 2013

He's back the little guy from Shawinigan!

"A proof is a proof. What kind of proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven."

Dear CyberSmokeBlog:

Just spotted this an hour ago on the front of the National Post (http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/01/28/calgary-oil-company-turned-to-chretien-tied-law-firm-for-help-before-bribing-chadian-ambassador/) so I don't have the full sense of it yet. The media must realize that the implications about Jean Chretien's involvement will be the biggest issue for the public. It's been in the Globe and Mail too (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/the-law-page/judge-approves-1035-million-fine-for-griffiths-energy-in-bribery-case/article7858675/).

I couldn't find anything on the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench website but here's a copy of the Agreed Statement of Facts currently on the Canadian Bar Association's site (http://www.cba.org/CBA/advocacy/PDF/Griffiths
_Amended_Statement_of_Facts).

Evidently, while the bribe was actually paid through Mr. Chretien's firm Heenan no lawyers have been charged with anything ..... yet.

E. G.

Dear E. G.:

Thank you for contacting CyberSmokeBlog and the good sleuthing. Don't know whether you're aware but Pierre Trudeau also landed at Montreal BigLaw powerhouse Heenan Blaikie doing much the same kind of work as Jean Chretien.

Here's where it gets interesting. Does a relationship exist between Heenan Blaikie and Montreal-based engineering-construction giant SNC-Lavalin which the RCMP is currently investigating recently announcing about $160 million had been paid for bribes in its international operations much of which appear to have taken place during the regime of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. This begged the question whether H B has done business with SNC?

A quick check of the internet revealed in January, 2010 Jacques Lamarre (not to be confused with former Montreal Canadians hockey player and now Senator) an ex-SNC President and Chief Executive Officer joined SNC as a Strategic Advisor. Further, a year later Heenan Blaikie organized the "Brazil Initiative" with, yes, SNC-Lavalin plus mining giant Vale SA which eventually purchased nickel giant Inco a few years ago so the two entities know each other.

Then there's the Arthur Porter story profiled below. Who was one of the major contractors in the construction of McGill University's $1.3 billion Medical Centre that's right SNC. So as you can see E.G. the little guy from Shawinigan was small potatoes in the grand scheme of things - perhaps he should change his Christian name to "Chad." Chad Chretian has a nice ring to it don't you think?

Wouldn't it be interesting if the Charbonneau Commission making daily headlines for its investigation into corrupt practices within Quebec's construction industry were expanded to include the law firms that service these companies?
Unfortunately, it's not going to happen E.G. because the legal lobby is far to powerful so Quebec will have to live with the situation as it exists.
In the meantime, you may be interested in the following article about that little guy from Shawinigan..

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Exclusive: Chretien played a key role in controversial Chad oil deal

Jacquie McNish and Carrie Tait
Toronto/Calgary
Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien in April 2012 in Shawinigan, Quebec. (Ryan Remioiz/The Canadian Press)

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien played an instrumental role in persuading the government of Chad to grant lucrative oil and gas rights in 2009 to Calgary’s Griffiths Energy International Inc., says the country’s former ambassador to Canada.

Mahamoud Bechir said he attended a meeting with Mr. Chrétien and the country’s long-serving President, Idriss Déby, and its then-Minister of Petroleum and Energy in September 2009. During the meeting, held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C., the former Prime Minister promoted the fledgling company, which was struggling to secure oil concessions in the African country.

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There is no suggestion or evidence that Mr. Chrétien was involved in any of the dealings that resulted in the bribery case, nor that he had knowledge of the payment to the Ambassador’s wife. Mr. Chrétien is counsel to Bay Street law firm Heenan Blaikie, which served as Griffiths Energy’s legal adviser from August 2009 to January 2011. It is common practice for major law firms to hire retired politicians to help build relationships with domestic and foreign countries.

At Heenan Blaikie, Mr. Chrétien has helped a number of Canadian companies establish ties with a variety of African countries.

Mr. Chrétien declined through a spokesman to discuss the meeting, citing client confidentiality. A spokesman for Heenan Blaikie also declined comment.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Bechir, who was fired from his job as Chad’s Ambassador to South Africa on the weekend, portrayed Mr. Chrétien as a man who helped Griffiths’ senior management gain access to key officials in the Chadian government. The ex-Ambassador said his wife, Nouracham Niam, wrote a formal letter to the embassy proposing the meeting, which he approved “because this is Jean Chrétien. … He has the priority because he was the former Prime Minister of Canada.”

The meeting took place in a small conference room next to Mr. Déby’s suite at the Ritz. According to Mr. Bechir and other people familiar with the session, Heenan Blaikie lawyer Jacques Bouchard Jr. and two company founders, Brad Griffiths and Naeem Tyab, were also in attendance.

Mr. Bechir described Mr. Chrétien “a very funny guy,” who set a jovial tone during the meeting and reassured the Chad delegation about Griffiths Energy’s potential.

“This is a big testimony from a high-profile person,” Mr. Bechir said. “I think that facilitated – it give some confidence to the government these are not just a bunch of people who are dreaming in the internet.”

“I think that gave the confidence to the government that these people are serious, Griffiths’ company is serious.”

Mr. Déby responded by telling the Griffiths team that “they are welcome” in Chad, Mr. Bechir said. One month later, on October 26, 2009, Griffiths Energy signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct due diligence on two oil blocks.

The agreement was a huge leap forward for a relatively unknown company that had failed after a number of visits to Chad to purchase rights to produce oil and gas in the country’s rich southern oil fields. Mr. Griffiths, a former Bay Street investment banker, was so entranced with the investment opportunities in Chad that Mr. Bechir said the executive told him he would change his first name to Chad from Brad if the oil and gas investment was approved. He also promised a number of investments to build everything from new roads in Chad to a radio station at the Washington embassy, the Ambassador said.

Griffiths Energy ultimately secured formal rights to the Chad properties in January, 2011, but the victory was short-lived.

Mr. Griffiths drowned in July, 2011, in a boating accident. The company’s new management team discovered problematic contracts in the fall of that year and alerted the police to them, which culminated in last week’s guilty plea.

Federal prosecutors have begun proceedings to force Ms. Niam to forfeit the $2-million payment and her large holding of shares in the company. According to an agreed statement of facts released by the court, in the fall of 2009, Griffiths Energy sold Ms. Niam and two friends 4 million so-called “founders shares” for a fraction of a penny each.

The statement said Ms. Niam was originally awarded 1.6 million shares for $1,600. Mr. Bechir said his wife later purchased an additional 1.6 million Griffiths Energy shares that were awarded to their children’s teacher, Adoum Hassan, who was one of the original recipients of the founders shares.

Her stock holding is currently valued at about $20-million. Mr. Bechir said he plans to fight prosecutor’s plans to force his wife to forfeit the shares.

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