December 8, 2021

OPP officers at centre of RCMP investigation suspended [Cayman Islands named]

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1000-oppa-combojpg.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxBy: Lauren Pelley from The Star

On Sunday, the OPP announced that OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes had ordered detective sergeant James Christie, provincial constable Martin Bain and provincial constable Karl Walsh suspended from duty.

Three Ontario Provincial Police officers have been suspended from duty amid an ongoing RCMP investigation involving the top brass of the OPP union.

On Sunday, the OPP announced that commissioner Vince Hawkes had ordered detective sergeant James Christie, provincial constable Martin Bain and provincial constable Karl Walsh suspended from duty on Friday.

The RCMP investigation alleges that all three high-ranking members of the Ontario Provincial Police Association participated in a sophisticated financial scheme to defraud the union’s membership using a travel company, a consulting firm and risky offshore investments.

The unproven allegations against the top OPPA officials are contained in an affidavit used to obtain search warrants executed by the RCMP late last week.

None of the allegations have been proven and no charges have been laid.

Christie, Bain and Walsh are suspended from the OPP indefinitely and with pay, according to sergeant Peter Leon, provincial media relations coordinator with the OPP.

“There is an investigation… that is underway. So at this point, the suspension is in effect until determined otherwise by the commissioner of the OPP,” Leon said.

Word of the trio’s suspension comes shortly after Walsh’s firing from the union.

An email from Doug Lewis, acting president of the OPPA, to union staff said the Board of Directors met on Friday, March 13 in Barrie and “unanimously approved” a motion to terminate the employment contract of Walsh, the union’s now-former chief administrative officer.

As chief administrative officer, Walsh was responsible for the association’s $70-million budget, and previously served as president from October 2005 to March 2011.

The OPPA represents approximately 6,200 uniformed members and 3,600 civilian staff across Ontario.

The union has hired the law firm Stikeman Elliott to conduct an internal investigation into the alleged criminal ring at its upper ranks, which is “still ongoing at this time” according to Josh Jutras, strategic communications coordinator with the OPPA.

Following Walsh’s firing from the OPPA, Bain and Christie have since taken leaves of absence from the union.

Among the offshore investments the trio allegedly used to profit from and “deceive” union members are two condos in Nassau, Bahamas and over $100,000 of OPPA funds wired to the Cayman Islands to pay for shares in a Cayman-based income fund.

The RCMP affidavit states that the trio’s alleged accomplices include Toronto criminal lawyer Andrew McKay, a former police officer, as well as Noel Francis Chantiam and Klara Kozak, who are partners in First Response, the travel company believed to be involved in the scheme.

McKay, Kozak and Chantiam are alleged to have committed fraudulent concealment, laundering proceeds of crime and fraud, according to the affidavit.

IMAGE: Left-Right: OPPA president Jim Christie, Vice President OPPA Martin Bain, Chief Admin. Officer OPPA, Karl Walsh. TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO
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Union whistleblowers spark OPPA fraud investigation in Barrie [involves Cayman Islands]

By Rick Vanderlinde From Inside Halton

An OPP officer and executive officer of the provincial force’s union, McNamara was the first to complain to authorities about unusual financial transactions involving the union’s top brass.

When McNamara, who had signing authority for the 6,000-member union, was asked to authorize a $5,000 cheque last August, payable to a consulting company he had never heard of, he wondered what services the mystery firm provided.

A few days later, McNamara learned of two other transactions that didn’t make sense to him — the union had purchased a condo in the Bahamas and had wired $100,000 to the Cayman Islands for a “high-risk” investment.

McNamara’s statement and those of three other union whistleblowers are contained in an affidavit the RCMP used to obtain a warrant to search the union’s Barrie offices March 6.

The affidavit alleges Ontario Provincial Police Association president Jim Christie, vice-president Martin Bain and chief administrative officer Karl Walsh committed theft, breach of trust, fraud and laundering the proceeds of crime.

Walsh ran unsuccessfully as Liberal candidate in the last provincial election.

No charges have been laid and none of the allegations have been proven in court. The three men have stepped away from their duties as the investigation continues.

McNamara’s initial concerns have led to an RCMP investigation that will attempt to prove that Christie, of Midland, Walsh of Bradford West Gwillimbury and Bain of Oro-Medonte were involved in elaborate schemes that were detrimental to the union’s membership.

“I believe they have financially benefited from their actions, breached the trust of the OPPA membership and placed the OPPA and its membership at a significant financial risk,” the affidavit’s author RCMP Sgt. Gordon Aristotle concluded.

Using statements provided by McNamara, an IT manager, a union accountant and a human resources officer, the RCMP investigation alleges the union executives conspired with Toronto lawyer Andrew McKay, a former police officer, and two other Toronto accomplices.

The 88-page information to obtain a search warrant alleges PIN, which lists McKay as its only director, received an $180,000 contract with the union after Walsh and Christie signed the three-year deal. McKay defends police officers accused of wrongdoing.

“PIN is closely associated with much of the alleged fraudulent activity under investigation,” the affidavit states.

Funds being paid to PIN by the union were allegedly used to buy shares in a company called First Response Travel, which is owned by Walsh, Bain and Christie.

To hide their ownership in First Response, the shares belonging to the union bosses — none of whom disclosed their stake in the company to their board of directors or membership — were held in trust by Kozak “through an offshore investment scheme,” the document alleges.

OPP union members were told to use First Response exclusively to receive travel discounts.

The union whistleblowers also believe PIN is involved in the evaluation of land in Oro for a new union headquarters. The board of director’s approved $100,000 Feb. 19 to evaluate property on the 7th Line in Oro.

“Walsh was fixated on acquiring this property,” one of the whistleblowers told the RCMP.

The longtime employee said there is no need to relocate, but “Walsh says he wanted to move the OPPA out of Barrie because the OPP does not police the City of Barrie.”

The affidavit also alleges that Walsh wired $100,000 to the Cayman’s to invest in the New Providence Income Fund Inc., which is not regulated in Canada.

“Despite the potential for high yield return, this high risk investment was counter to the historically conservative investment strategy of the OPPA,” Sgt. Aristotle wrote warrant application.

In his bid to gain search warrants, Aristotle concludes: “The totality of the alleged behavior demonstrates and ongoing breach of trust … that has escalated in sophistication and significance to the point where they are now believed to be using a lawyer, a nominee, a consulting firm, a travel company, an offshore company and offshore investments to profit and deceive the OPPA membership.”

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