The Gomery report detailed the existence of an "elaborate kickback scheme" masterminded by Jacques Corriveau, a close friend to Jean Chrétien, to funnel money to the Liberal party's Montreal headquarters. Canadian Press/CBC
A former Liberal organizer, whom former prime minister Jean Chrétien once described as a "good friend," is now facing charges related to the federal sponsorship scandal.
Corriveau is charged with fraud against the government, forgery and laundering proceeds of crime, according to the RCMP.
Jacques Corriveau, 80, was one of several Liberal insiders called to testify at the Gomery Commission in 2004 and 2005.
The inquiry, led by Justice John Gomery, heard that Corriveau's design firm secured millions of dollars in funding from the now defunct federal sponsorship program.
Among the testimony, former ad executive Jean Brault told the inquiry he paid secret commissions to Corriveau's firm as kickbacks to the Liberal Party of Canada.
Charges a reminder of scandal's scope
The investigation into Corriveau’s role has continued as part of a larger investigation launched in 2002, dubbed Project Carnegie.
The far-reaching investigation, which is still underway, focuses on allegations of mismanagement in the federal sponsorship program.
"Project Carnegie is not over yet, [but] the phase with Mr. Corriveau is over," said Const. Érique Gasse of the RCMP at a Friday afternoon news conference.
The RCMP allege Corriveau set up a contract kickback system involving the sponsorship program.
“Mr. Corriveau allegedly claimed that he could exercise influence on the federal government to facilitate the awarding of contracts to certain Quebec-based communication firms in return for several million dollars' worth of advantages and/or benefits for himself and other persons,” the RCMP said in a news release.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair took the RCMP's announcement as an opportunity to remind Quebecers and Canadians of the significant role the Liberal Party of Canada played in the sponsorship scandal.
"The Liberals still owe the Canadian taxpayers over $40 million. When will we see the repayment?” Lebel asked in a statement.
Mulcair also said at a news conference Friday that he was surprised it took this long for Corriveau to be charged.
"It was always a bit surprising that Mr. Corriveau hadn't been the object of charges. A judge will decide what to make of those charges," Mulcair said.
"Overall, I think that this is justice moving in the right direction."
Justin Trudeau's federal Liberals refused to comment on the charges against Corriveau.
A communications manager for the Liberals told CBC News on Friday, "We won’t be commenting on that topic."
Police allege Corriveau’s company, Pluridesign, received millions of dollars from GroupePolygone-Expour after he helped secure sponsorship program contracts for trade shows and publications.
The money was allegedly billed by Corriveau's company for phoney professional services on fake invoices.
Corriveau's home was searched by the RCMP in 2007, but no charges were laid at that time.
He is scheduled to appear in court in Montreal on Jan. 10.