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Montreal businessman blames ex-spy watchdog for his financial woes

Ari Ben Menashe is hustled into a car by Zimbabwean security personnel shortly after his arrival in Harare on Feb. 22, 2002.

Associated Press

A Montreal consultant suggests a federal official who served as Canada's spy watchdog manoeuvred to blacklist him after a joint business deal in Africa soured.

In a sworn affidavit filed in Montreal Tuesday, Ari Ben-Menashe states that certain authorities moved to shut off his access to Canadian bank accounts after he had a falling out with Arthur Porter this fall.

Dr. Porter, the chief executive of the McGill University Health Centre, resigned last week as the head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. Appointed as SIRC chair by Prime Minister Stephen Harper one year ago, Mr. Porter's judgment was called into question this month after details leaked out about his dealings with Mr. Ben-Menashe.

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Now, Mr. Ben-Menashe – a Canadian citizen who had built a reputation for dealing in arms and doing millions in business deals as a consultant to African strongmen – complains he is fighting to salvage his reputation in the dark.

He argues that after bad blood emerged between him and Dr. Porter, Canadian authorities moved to shut off his access to funds. The consultant complains he has fallen victim to opaque and arbitrary processes that deny him fundamental justice – and liquid funds.

"Our relationship soured as a dispute which arose in the context of an infrastructure project in Sierra Leone in which Dr. Porter was directly involved," Mr. Ben Menashe writes in his affidavit. "Very shortly after that, I was advised by [Bank of Montreal's]private banking division that they no longer wished to do business with me for reasons which they refused to explain."

"... I believe that the sudden unwillingness of BMO's private banking division to continue to manage my investments because of my reputation is directly related to the business dispute I was having with Dr. Porter."

Mr. Ben Menashe further writes that the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has sent him a notice that it wants to stop doing business with him by Nov. 29, 2011. He is asking a Montreal judge to sign off an injunction that would prevent CIBC from ceasing to do business with him.

"It appears to me that the major banks have the power, acting in concert, to destroy one's economic life in Canada on a whim," he writes, "Without being subject to a review by a competent court."

Dr. Porter said last week he was involved in a short-lived business deal with Mr. Ben-Menashe, paying him a $200,000 deposit in hopes of securing millions of funding to build infrastructure in his native Sierra Leone.

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The deposit was ultimately refunded to him. Dr. Porter, who denies any wrongdoing, has also said he had had no idea about the past of Mr. Ben-Menashe, who published a 1992 memoir titled Profits of Arms.

SIRC is a watchdog body that exists to probe the covert dealings of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and hold CSIS to account for any civil liberties violations. The committee consists of 20 federal bureaucrats led by five board members, part-time patronage appointees who are obliged to keep the government apprised of their business dealings and potentials for conflicts of interest.

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About the Author
National security reporter

Focusing on Canadian matters during the past decade, Colin Freeze has reported extensively on the interplay between government, police, spy services, and the judiciary. Colin has twice been to Afghanistan to be embedded with the Canadian military. More

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