MONTREAL — Arthur Porter, the internationally renowned doctor who became embroiled in alleged fraud in recent years, was confirmed dead Tuesday, ending days of speculation that news of his passing may just have been a ruse.
“Visual identification proved sufficient to formally assure us of his death,” Robert Lafreniere, head of Quebec’s anti-corruption unit, said in a statement.
Porter’s biographer, doctor and relatives said last week he died of cancer in Panama, where he’d been detained since May 2013 as he fought extradition to Canada.
That wasn’t enough for Quebec authorities, who said they wouldn’t drop fraud charges against him without indisputable evidence proving he was dead.
Quebec then sent two investigators to Panama last Friday.
While a view of the corpse proved sufficient to reach that conclusion, Lafreniere said digital fingerprints and DNA samples were taken that will lead to scientific tests “to eliminate all possible doubt.”
Porter, the former head of the McGill University Health Centre, was accused of receiving part of an alleged $22.5-million payment from SNC-Lavalin in order to rig a $1.3-billion Montreal superhospital contract to ensure it went to the engineering giant.
Lafreniere confirmed the charges against Porter, 59, will be dropped but that proceedings will continue against seven co-accused.
Porter’s wife, Pamela Porter, was sentenced in December to 33 months in prison after she pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering in connection with her husband’s case.
The investigators from Quebec’s anti-corruption unit were granted entry to the morgue in Panama City on Monday afternoon.
The alleged $22.5-million fraud has been described by one Quebec provincial police investigator as one of the largest corruption cases in Canadian history.
Porter, who vehemently denied any wrongdoing, was transferred last May to a cancer clinic where he was receiving treatment.
His doctor said he’d been treating himself while imprisoned.
Porter was also once appointed head of Canada’s spy watchdog agency by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.