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Brault's tsunami of Liberal corruption allegations 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 7:15 p.m. April 7, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Minutes after Justice John Gomery lifted his publication ban on almost all of the testimony of Groupaction's Jean Brault, the opposition parties in the House went after the Liberal government.  
  

"There is mounting evidence, a mountain of evidence, that the Liberal government is involved in a criminal conspiracy of the like never seen in this country before," said Conservative Deputy Leader Peter MacKay.

Five days of Brault's frank testimony began pouring out in the media shortly after 2:00 p.m. ET when Gomery ruled it would not have an impact on Brault's criminal trial. 

Brault's testimony paints a picture of a sponsorship program being operated in a subtle but systematic way to funnel government money to the Liberal party. 

Testimony and documents from Brault's days in the witness chair show Brault made over $1.1 million in indirect payments for money he said was destined to the Liberal party.  He said that was facilitated by dramatic overpayments made by the sponsorship contracts he won from the federal government.  

The donations took several forms and were in addition to the $116,000 in donations he made legitimately over the years. 

Brault was relaxed as he testified and provided great detail in his stories. 

How he pumped the money into the party came in various methods, including fake invoices, paying employees whose main job was to be available for the Liberal party, third-party payments and old-fashioned cash payments in brown envelopes left on restaurant tables. 

Brault said all of this was done at the urging of Liberal party officials. 

His testimony is by far the most damaging to the Liberal party the inquiry has heard. 

Here are some highlights:

Fake Invoices For "The Cause"

At the inquiry, commission counsel Bernard Roy revealed documents showing that over $400,000 was paid to the firm Pluridesign, owned by Jacques Corriveau, a Liberal organizer and friend of former prime minister Jean Chretien. Previous testimony at the inquiry revealed that Corriveau was owned thousands from the Liberal party for work he did on the 1997 campaign. 

As Roy ran through the list of invoices, each of which Brault said were fake, he was interrupted by Brault. "Mr. Roy, let me sum it up this way: All the invoices that you will see from Pluridesign to Groupaction or its subsidiaries represent work or services which were not rendered but were paid for."

Brault testified that he wasn't even aware of exactly what type of Pluridesign did. 

He said he knew the money was destined for the Liberal Party because they were for what Corriveau described as "the cause."

When cross-examined by Liberal party lawyer Douglas Mitchell, who suggested that Brault seemed to use a lot of fake invoices, Brault shot back, "I started my business in '82. Until I had your client I never had any false invoices."

Campaign donations

Brault said his contacts with the Liberal party, with the help of a connected consultant he kept on a retainer, Alain Renaud, opened doors for his company in winning federal contracts. 

He was a member of the exclusive Laurier Club, reserved for the Liberal Party's largest donors, who got to attend events with the prime minister, including a dinner at 24 Sussex.

Brault said winning work from the sponsorship program was directly linked to political donations. 

“Without that I think the slice of the pie would have been very thin," he said. 

Helping Liberals good

He also began to learn that helping out when Liberal party officials asked would be beneficial. 

In April of 1996, Brault said he met with Corriveau who wanted him to hire a Liberal party official for a year, even though Brault had no need for the Liberals' skills or a job for him. 

"We began to sense what the magic formula was to be lucky," he said. "It was to listen very carefully to some requests that the party would make."

Not helping Liberals bad

Meanwhile, Brault discovered that when he didn't help Liberals then he would face veiled threats. 

He broke down in tears on the stand as he recounted a money dispute between himself and Renaud, who Brault wanted to renegotiate with. Renaud was offended and demanded to see Brault's books, which Groupaction's accountants advised against. 

Later Renaud agreed to a new proposal from Brault that included a $20,000  advance. Renaud promptly cashed the cheque and then quit Groupaction and joined another firm. 

A few months later, Renaud wanted back in at Groupaction and arranged to meet Brault at a Montreal restaurant. 

Brault said late in the evening at the restaurant, Renaud's cell phone rang. He handed the phone to Brault. 

On the line it was Tony Mignacca, a friend of former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano. Magnacca told him "Are you taking care of my friend Alain?"

"He was talking to me in parables," Brault explained, and said Mignacca said he had been talking to the "choo-choo man," who he understood to be either VIA Rail chair Jean Pelletier or president Marc Lefrancois. 

"I gather that these were the very highest up at Via Rail," said Brault, who had just acquired Lafleur Communications and the VIA contract. 

Mignacca invited himself over to the restaurant and drank with Brault

"He was singing Alain's praises and he was telling me how important it was to take Alain back," Brault testified. "He implied that the Via account was in danger." 

Prime Minister Paul Martin was not in the House of Commons on Thursday as he was en route to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II. 

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