Arthur Porter‘s former right-hand man, Yanaï Elbaz, will not have to pay damages for having received a $10-million bribe when the contract for the McGill University Health Centre’s so-called superhospital was awarded to SNC-Lavalin.
Quebec Court Judge Claude Leblond made his decision on the damages Monday morning. He ruled that a civil court, and not criminal court, is the more appropriate forum for such a matter. Elbaz, 49, is currently named in two significant lawsuits related to how the contract was tainted by his and Porter’s decision to accept bribes.
Elbaz, a father of four, was the assistant director general of planning and real estate management for the MUHC and part of the committee that decided which group would win the $1.3-billion contract to build the superhospital.
SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., the leader of a consortium that won the contract, is suing Elbaz, his brother Yohann, and two of its own executives for $47 million. The MUHC is suing Elbaz, Porter’s estate and former SNC-Lavalin executive Riadh Ben Aissa for $30 million. Porter died in 2015 in a jail in Panama while he was challenging Canada’s request to have him extradited.
In his decision, Leblond noted that the MUHC’s request for damages was not part of the common suggestion on Elbaz’s sentence that was presented to him on Nov. 26 by defence lawyer Nadine Touma and prosecutor Claudie Lalonde-Tardif. The judge cited jurisprudence that established the state can’t seek damages after a common suggestion on a sentence has been made unless it is for a “modest sum.” But on that point, MUHC lawyer Alexander De Zordo argued last month that the prosecution kept the MUHC, the victim of the crime, in the dark on its negotiations with Touma until an agreement was reached on the sentence just days before Elbaz pleaded guilty.
The judge also agreed with Touma’s argument that, based on precedent, the amount of damages sought in a criminal case should be “easily quantifiable.”
Former SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime is scheduled to go to trial in the same case in February. He faces charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and using forged documents.