Ex-CRA auditor sentenced to 9 months for graft
A former Canada Revenue Agency auditor who solicited a bribe from a restaurant in Plateau-Mont-Royal was sentenced to a nine-month prison term on Thursday.
When it comes to public administration, the courts “have to serve as a means to avoid the propagation of corruption,” Quebec Court Judge Yves Paradis said before sentencing Elias Kawkab, 54, a resident of the St-Laurent borough.
Defence lawyer Giuseppe Battista had requested a discharge while federal prosecutor Catherine Legault had requested a prison term between 12 and 15 months.
In 2007, the owners of the Arahova restaurant were advised, by their lawyer, that a CRA auditor claimed they were facing the possibility of a $250,000 fine for failing to report revenue generated between 2004 and 2006. The lawyer told the owners that he was told a bribe might make their problems go away. An audit began two months after the lawyer warned his clients.
Facing possible bankruptcy if such a fine were levied, the restaurant’s manager sought help through an acquaintance and was introduced to Kawkab, then a “team leader” of a group of CRA auditors.
Kawkab was fired in 2011 after an RCMP investigation dubbed Project Coche led to criminal charges being filed against him and seven other CRA employees who worked out of the agency’s downtown offices. Last year, he pleaded guilty to fraud and breach of trust.
There was no evidence that Kawkab initiated what happened to the restaurant’s owners. He entered the picture after the restaurant manager sought help. After much discussion, Kawkab told the manager that his problems could be resolved for $100,000. A member of the family that owns the restaurant took out a second mortgage on his home and Kawkab was handed the money in his car.
Months later, the manager regretted having paid the bribe. He contacted Kawkab and demanded that at least some of the cash be returned. Kawkab agreed to return half.
While delivering his decision on Thursday, Paradis said Kawkab’s role in the affair cannot be summarized as brief or incidental.
“His implication lasted for some time. He served as an intermediary in the negotiations, he collected the amount requested,” Paradis said. “Whatever his motivation was, the Court can’t accept that a public official from (CRA) was involved in any way in a corruption operation toward taxpayers.”