TORONTO – The RCMP says it has grounds to believe top leaders of Ontario’s provincial police union set up a sophisticated network of schemes involving secretly owned companies and offshore investments to defraud union members.
The allegations against senior officials of the Ontario Provincial Police Association and others are laid out in documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court to obtain search warrants and production orders for a March 6 raid on union offices and other locations.
Among the warrants’ targets were the union’s offices in Barrie, Ont., three vehicles registered in its name and a Toronto travel company, documents released Friday show.
The production orders sought copies and backups of union email accounts belonging to its president Jim Christie, vice-president Martin Bain and chief administrative officer Karl Walsh.
“The totality of the alleged behaviour demonstrates an ongoing breach of trust which is being committed by Walsh, Bain and Christie that has escalated in sophistication and significance to the point where they are now believed to be using a lawyer, a nominee, a consulting firm, a travel company, an offshore company and offshore investments to profit and deceive the OPPA membership,” RCMP Sgt. Gordon Aristotle alleges in the documents.
None of the allegations have been proven and no charges have been laid. An RCMP spokesman said Friday the investigation is ongoing and declined to comment further.
The Ontario Provincial Police Association said earlier this week that Christie and Bain, whose offices were searched, have taken voluntary leaves of absence. Walsh, whose office was also searched by the RCMP, has been placed on administrative leave, it said.
The union said in a statement that “these actions should not be considered admissions or implications of wrongdoing or liability by anyone or by the association.”
It also said it had fully co-operated with the criminal investigation by handing over items identified in the search warrant and would not comment further.
The warrants, orders and other related documents were initially sealed by the court but released by a judge Friday.
In the documents, Aristotle said there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Christie, Bain and Walsh — who are all police officers — committed theft, fraud, criminal breach of trust and laundering the proceeds of crime.
Another three people, including a former Toronto police officer turned defence lawyer, are suspected of fraud, fraudulent concealment and laundering the proceeds of crime, the RCMP investigator said.
RCMP allege in the documents that the three union officials hold half the shares of First Response Travel Group, a company formed in June of last year, and that union employees were being encouraged to use for all their travel needs. Christie, Bain and Walsh “have not disclosed their beneficial ownership” of the company to union board members, the documents said.
It’s alleged the other half of First Response shares belong to Andrew McKay, a former police officer now working as a lawyer, and two others. McKay was not immediately available for comment.
The RCMP also allege the union was being charged monthly consulting fees by another company, PIN Consulting Group Inc., and that the funds paid were being used by the Christie, Bain and Walsh to buy $30,000 in First Response shares.
In order to hide their ownership in First Response, the shares belonging to Bain, Walsh and Christie were being held in trust by another individual through an offshore investment scheme, the documents allege.
“Walsh, Christie and Bain are allegedly benefiting financially from PIN’s business relationship with the OPPA, however, the extent of this benefit is not yet known.”
The documents allege the three union officials also made fraudulent claims for vacation leave payouts and expenses but say these allegations “are not the primary focus of this investigation.”
The RCMP say the investigation was prompted by complaints by four union employees.
The email data collected in the raid were to be immediately sealed and sent to an independent forensic examiner to be analyzed without being seen by police, according to the production order.
The data would then go to an independent lawyer, who would determine whether to invoke solicitor-client privilege and notify affected clients if applicable.