Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Weak Justice System Contributes to Quebec Corruption
Our current justice minister Jean-Marc Fournier, was so furious at the Prime Minister for toughening up the law in Bill C-10, whereby punishments and jail times were beefed up for serious crime, that he raced off to Ottawa to demand that the law be softened, his supplications falling on deaf ears.
For many Quebecers it is a source of pride, giving rise to a smug, snobby, sense of superiority that Quebec treats criminals more 'compassionately' than do other provinces in Canada.
That Quebec has a slightly lower crime rate as compared to the ROC has many Quebecers proudly crowing that their penal system which encourages short, or non-existent sentences and which focuses on rehabilitation is the reason.
This of course is poppycock.
One of the principal reasons for the difference, is the fact that Quebec is home to less than 8% of Canada's aboriginals, this in a province with 24% of the national population.
Sadly, Aboriginals represent 20% of Canada's prison population, five times what we'd expect demographically.
Since Quebec has statistically fewer natives, (by a factor of 66%) there's enough of an impact to account for the small statistical difference in the crime rate between Quebec and the ROC.
I'm not putting the knock on natives, but it is what it is.
Now every time somebody raises the specter of more severe punishment for criminals, the leftist intelligentsia mounts a ferocious attack on proponents, describing them as a bunch of Cro-Magnons, out of touch with modern criminal rehabilitation practices.
They invariably trot the argument, that while the United States incarcerates sevens times as many people (per capita) as Canada, there are no tangible benefits as pertaining to the crime rate or recidivism.
There is a legitimate question as to whether tougher sentences have effects on violent or career criminals, the best example is the death penalty, the scariest of all sentences that seems to have no deterrent effect on those contemplating murder.
But today's blog piece is not about those hardened career criminals, but rather the white collar types, the businessmen who cheat the government out of millions by way of rigged tendering, over-billing, under-delivering and phoney-invoice schemes that fraud not only the contracting authority, but the tax department as well.
Here, I contend, that a vigorous enforcement coupled with meaningful jail time for offenders would make a significant contribution to lessening the stain of corruption and fraud.
Unfortunately, our justice system has failed us miserably, it is simply not up to the task of meting out real and effective punishment that would have a real and signifigant deterrent effect.
While it may be true that a gang member from Montreal North has no fear of jail, it being an occupational hazard, such is not the case for businessmen, who can still make a good living without resorting to fraud.
Lax enforcement and insignificant punishment lead otherwise honest citizens to consider 'crossing the line.'
Let us take for example those 'honest' citizens who cross the border and make dishonest custom declarations.
It's a risk they take based on the slim chance they will be caught and the assessment that in the remote eventuality that they are caught, the punishment will be nothing more than a fine.
For most of us, just the humiliation of getting caught is enough to keep us honest, but for those who are adventuresome, the risk to reward is worth it.
But what if border agents started putting people in jail for smuggling, even if it is just for that one gorgeous pair of $1,000 shoes. What if the punishment would be a weekend in jail or some community service?
Simply put, the harsher the penalty, the higher the chance that honest law abiding citizens will be discouraged from cheating.
But the government in its wisdom, deems this type of border enforcement to be a waste of resources and so a higher level of smuggling is the acceptable by-product.
I repeat what I said earlier, for hardened criminals, increased jail sentences aren't much of a deterrent, crime is their life and jail an occupational hazard.
But for otherwise genereally honest citizens, heightened penalties and the real possibility of incarceration would be a serious deterrent and this Mr Harper and everyone else in authority fails to understand.
Increased penalties for white collar crime would definitely have a significant dampening effect.
Unlike career criminals, these people think very carefully about the consequences of being caught. Generally they have homes, families, savings, and reputations that they care about. If they do cheat, it's because like the border under-declarers, it is just too easy and the punishment just too lenient.
Recently, through fits and starts, our province has arrived at a place and time when we are finally prepared to confront corruption and fraud in the public service and the construction industry.
Though we are lurching forward, with two steps forward and one step back, progress is being made, arrests are happening and even a cyncal public has to be impressed at the forward momentum we are witnessing in uncovering malfeasance, with quite a few impressive headline-grabbing arrests of late.
My fear however is, that our justice system is woefully unprepared to do its part.
If things go on as before, cases will drag on for years and in the end, prosecutors will give sweetheart deals to the defendants because they are outgunned by topnotch defense lawyers who can grind down crown prosecutors who are working on a timetable and a budget.
If the anti-crime units do their part, and they seem to be doing just that, it is on the justice system to punish cheaters and crooks in a signifigant manner.
First, Canada Revenue Agency and Revenue Quebec must clean up their act and re-orient their goals.
Up to now, both agencies concentrate on recovering as much money as it can from cheaters, foregoing criminal prosecution in the process.
In other words criminals who cheat the tax deparatment, sometimes out of millions can buy their way out of jail.
"...Construction magnate Antonio Accurso personally signed cheques at the heart of a tax-evasion scheme and used part of the funds for luxurious home renovations and fancy clothes, a court document alleges. The Canada Revenue Agency agreed to a deal last year in which two companies administered by Mr. Accurso - but not the construction magnate himself - pleaded guilty to $4-million in tax evasion and paid an equivalent fine.
By agreeing to the plea deal, Simard-Beaudry Construction Inc. and Louisbourg Construction Ltd. were affected in their ability to obtain government contracts. However, there was no direct consequence for Mr. Accurso." Link
The practice of buying ones way out of a tax fraud must be eliminated, with jail time the priority for those who organize schemes to defraud the government.
At a certain point, the money is secondary and examples must be made.
It's also time to raise the ante and if fines are to be levied instead of jail time, they should be enormous, say ten times the amount of the fraud!
It's time to take off the gloves and teach cheaters that when caught, they will have Hell to pay.
By the way, the Canada Revenue Agency needs to clean up its own act as well and finally put to bed the nasty corruption scandal that rocked the Montreal office. Link
Fighting this type of crime also means that the government must react quickly to shifting circumstances.
We are now seeing another phenomena, whereby those facing lifetime bans in relation to bidding for government contracts, are transferring their companies and assets to family members who are acting as 'innocent' fronts.
Let the crooks involved who object to being banned have the onus to prove their innocence. Good luck.
In the town of Mascouche, site of the arrest of the mayor and a construction king, Normand Trudel, for fraud, it seems that business is as usual.
Mr. Trudel's old company, Transport et Excavation Mascouche, at the center of the controversy, has been re-launched under his son's ownership and under a new name.
Nothing has really changed, the person who answered the telephone before, is still answering the phone now!
Tony Accurso is alleged to have installed his daughter as titular head of many of his enterprises to avoid problems in the event of he himself being blacklisted, a likely scenario, the way things are going
Mayor Richard Marcotte, at the center of the corruption scandal in Mascouche is refusing to stand down as mayor and made an appearance at a town council meeting for five minutes this week, in order to preserve his position as mayor. Had he been absent for three months consecutively, he'd have been put out on his rear end.
To the boos and hisses of townspeople who crowded city hall to demand his resignation, Marcotte made a mockery of them all, the arrogant bastard thumbing his nose at the justice system and maintaining his $100,000 salary, doing nothing for the money!
All these types of shenanigans must be recognized and stamped out. Laws need to be enacted in reaction and all that's required is a desire for justice and a burning resolve to rid our public spaces of these white collar scoundrals and thieves.
Finally, resources must be poured into the system to speed up trials, so that cases involving high profile fraud cases be completed within a year, at the most.
Right now, this is a pipe dream as cases can linger for five years, all to the defendants advantage.
A special corruption court needs to be established with priority given to those high profile trials of politicians, civil servants, consultants, engineering firms and construction magnates.
Convictions must include jail time for those at the top of the heap, sentencing guidelines must be established so that paying a fine, no matter how big, is not an option.
Without the cooperation of the justice department and the courts, all the good police work and arrests will go for naught.
It remains to be seen who will win the war, the crooks or the good guys.
Right now, its too early to tell, but I am confident that good things can happen, as long as the justice system doesn't let us down.
Let's cross our fingers!
Posted by Editor on 7/11/2012 12:00:00 AM