No criminal charges to be laid in connection to downtown police HQ construction
CTV file image of the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters building. (Jon Hendricks/CTV News).
WINNIPEG -- There will be no criminal charges related to the scandal-plagued construction of the downtown police headquarters project.
Manitoba Justice’s prosecution branch says based on all available evidence, criminal charges are not being authorized.
“After a comprehensive review of the legal issues and the foundational facts provided through the investigation, MPS has concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to approve any criminal charges as there is not a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” says a news release.
"Simply when examining all the evidence in total it doesn't meet the standard for us to procedd with a prosecution," said Michele Jules, the executive director of Manitoba Prosecution Service.
The RCMP raided Caspian Construction five years ago as part of the investigation.
“The volume of the electronic disclosure was unprecedented – the police seized more than six terabytes of data. Those results consisted of 347 gigabytes of evidence including over 1,300 electronic folders and over 36,000 electronic files,” says the release.
The release notes charges that were being considered included breach of trust, fraud exceeding $5,000, forgery of documents, uttering forged documents, keeping false books or documents, and money laundering.
The police headquarters project ballooned in cost, ending up tens of millions of dollars over budget.
MAYOR RENEWS CALLS FOR PUBLIC INQUIRY
In the hours following the release that no charges would be laid – Mayor Brian Bowman said the city would now be renewing its calls for a public inquiry.
He said in 2017 Winnipeg City Council requested the province call an inquiry but were told by the province there would be no inquiry at the time due to the ongoing RCMP investigation.
“That chapter has now concluded – there is a clear path and an ongoing need to have a public inquiry,” Bowman said. “We owe it to taxpayers – we serve the same taxpayer, and we owe it to them to get to the bottom of this.”
While Bowman said he is not questioning the RCMP investigation, he said he was surprised no charges were laid. But without knowing all the information, it’s difficult to come to any conclusions, he said.
Bowman said the two-page release from RCMP has left a number of questions unanswered. He said he can understand and appreciate that some “key players” may not want to testify under oath in a public inquiry for the sake of their political career, but he called on these people to remember why they entered politics in the first place.
“The reason we run for public office is for the public good – now is the time to demonstrate that.”
Even with Bowman's renewed calls for an inquiry, Manitoba's Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said no inquiry is warranted.
"The facts of the file have been reviewed by the crown attorney’s," Cullen said. "They have determined there was not a reasonable likelihood of conviction.”
CITY PURSUING CIVIL ACTIONS WHILE WAITING FOR PUBLIC INQUIRY
Bowman said in the years the city has been waiting for a public probe, it has been using other means to get answers.
He said civil actions have been launched against Caspian Projects and AAR for negligence and breach of contract. The city is seeking general and special damages, and interest costs.
Bowman said he is not ruling out additional civil actions.
-with files from CTV's Danton Unger