The former number 1 of the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC) Robert Lafrenière came out of a silence of almost two years yesterday to clarify his role in the precipitous departure of his ex-right-hand man, in November 2017.
Even if he gave some details on the departure of Marcel Forget, he however remained very discreet on the events preceding his own resignation, including the arrest of MP Guy Ouellette, in October 2017.
The former head of the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC), Robert Lafrenière, in the corridor of the Montreal courthouse near the courtroom where he testified.
It was the first time in nearly two years that Robert Lafrenière spoke publicly.
He had given only one interview to La Presse after announcing his resignation on the very day of the election of a Caquist government, on October 1, 2018.
During his testimony at the Montreal courthouse, the former boss of UPAC now described himself as a “happy retiree”.
“I explained it, I was 65 years old, I had worked for 46 years, I was tired, honestly, I had decided in the summer that I would resign eventually […]”, he said repeated when he left the courtroom, denying any link between his departure and politics.
“I felt that I was no longer the person, I no longer had the energy,” he continued.
Robert Lafrenière was very reluctant to talk about Guy Ouellette, who has just published a book on the problems at UPAC.
“No comments on Guy Ouellette's book. There are ongoing investigations on chapters, ”he said only.
Robert Lafrenière was the first witness called to the bar yesterday in the lawsuit brought by the former deputy commissioner of UPAC Marcel Forget against the government of Quebec.
Mr. Forget is suing the Quebec state for $ 2 million for unlawful dismissal.
The latter believes that he was forced to resign from his post as deputy commissioner of UPAC in November 2017, even though he personally had no intention of leaving his job.
Officially, his departure at the time was linked to a series of articles in our Bureau of Inquiry about his role in the sale of shares in a company in the 1990s, Newtech.
Mr. Forget's lawyer, Me Daniel Rochefort, however hinted more than once yesterday that Forget's departure was more motivated by political considerations and that he had not had the choice of s' go.
For his part, Robert Lafrenière maintained that he had never asked Mr. Forget to resign, even though several articles about him were published at the time.
“I found it quite worrying even though I wasn't worried,” he said of it.
He described his ex-right-hand man as an executive who performed better than expected.
Recall that the departure of Marcel Forget occurred on November 30, 2017, a few weeks after the arrest of Liberal MP Guy Ouellette, on October 25, 2017.
The latter has never been accused of anything yet. This arrest had created a political storm.
Embarrassing texts for Coiteux
Martin Coiteux. Ex-minister
Exchanges of text messages between employees of the offices of the former Prime Minister, Philippe Couillard, and the Minister of Public Security at the time, Martin Coiteux, would demonstrate that the departure of the former number 2 of the Unit permanent anti-corruption was decided in high places.
This is the thesis supported yesterday by Marcel Forget's lawyer in his lawsuit against the State.
Me Daniel Rochefort filed in evidence yesterday exchanges of text messages between Johanne Boucher, deputy chief of staff in the office of the Prime Minister, and Olivier Hébert, of Minister Coiteux's office.
Not too fast to drop
These texts were exchanged on the morning of Mr. Forget's resignation, November 30, 2017.
“That André [Fortier] send him the message that he is being dumped anyway if he does not leave by himself,” wrote Mr. Hébert in a text.
“Nothing illegal and not too fast to drop, your minister could be sued!” »Replied Mrs. Boucher.
“You have to get him to understand that it's better for him,” she adds.
The latter specifies that Mr. Forget has already been informed by André Fortier, the secretary general for senior jobs at the time, that the minister would not protect him during a press briefing to come during the day.
Earlier in the day, Robert Lafrenière had confided that he spoke to Marcel Forget on the morning of November 30 and that the latter told him that he had been forced to choose between resigning or being fired.
- Martin Coiteux must be questioned today in this trial.