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Couillard says he had meeting with anti-corruption investigators

Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard confirms he was interrogated by anti-corruption investigators, Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at the legislature in Quebec City.

Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard says he has had an impromptu meeting with anti-corruption investigators, who asked him what practices had changed within the party since he took over last March.

Mr. Couillard gave few details, saying that he did not want to interfere with the police probe, but he added that the officers agreed he could state publicly that he is not under investigation.

He added that police have questioned no members of his current caucus.

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The Liberal leader made the disclosure a few hours after the Wednesday morning meeting, a day after he had to explain why he did not go public when police executed a search warrant at his party's headquarters in July.

Mr. Couillard said he now wants to be transparent to restore public confidence in politicians.

The meeting took place after two police officers appeared unannounced outside the apartment where Mr. Couillard lives when he is in Quebec City. The encounter lasted about 45 minutes.

"Their aim was to meet me as the leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec, to have my comments about the changes I've put in place since I came in power. ... I am not targeted by any investigation," Mr. Couillard said.

He added that the investigators were from the Hammer Squad. Set up in 2009 by the Liberal government, Hammer probed the construction industry. It is now a component of the provincial anti-corruption unit UPAC.

"It's not a pleasant human experience," Mr. Couillard said. "But when I left, I said to myself, that's precisely why those squads were set up."

According to testimony at the Charbonneau commission, construction and engineering firms illegally donated to the Liberals. Construction boss Lino Zambito testified that he plied Nathalie Normandeau, a Liberal cabinet minister at the time, with gifts and that he organized fundraisers for her that contravened electoral financing rules.

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Mr. Couillard declined to comment on a Radio-Canada report that the police were focusing on Ms. Normandeau and other former members of the Liberal caucus.

Instead he praised his party as a historic political presence in Quebec.

"I am very proud of the institution. There are individuals who might be found guilty of transgressing laws … they'll have to assume the consequences."

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More


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