Feds sue over miss­ing mil­lions meant for First Na­tion

Firm al­legedly di­verted fund­ing for health care

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - NP - BRIAN PLATT

The fed­eral govern­ment is su­ing an On­tario com­pany over al­le­ga­tions it di­verted and mis­ap­pro­pri­ated mil­lions in health-care fund­ing in­tended for one of Canada’s most im­pov­er­ished First Na­tions.

The law­suit also re­veals that Health Canada re­peat­edly re­newed its con­tract with the com­pany even while it was the sub­ject of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by both the govern­ment and RCMP over con­cerns it was fraud­u­lently man­ag­ing funds in­tended for the Kashechewan First Na­tion.

In Septem­ber 2016 the RCMP charged one of two broth­ers named in the suit, Giuseppe Crupi (who goes by Joe), for fraud­u­lently ob­tain­ing and mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing $1.2 mil­lion meant to feed 400 ele­men­tary school chil­dren in Kashechewan. He faces eight counts re­lated to fraud and laun­der­ing the pro­ceeds of crime.

But a law­suit filed Oct. 2 by Health Canada against Crupi and his brother Franco con­tains a new al­le­ga­tion in­volv­ing a fur­ther $1.4 mil­lion in Health Canada funds, in­clud­ing un­doc­u­mented pay­ments to com­pa­nies run by the broth­ers and “Christ­mas bonuses” paid out of money des­ig­nated for Kashechewan health projects.

The al­le­ga­tions cen­tre on a Thun­der Bay, Ont., com­pany called the Crupi Con­sult­ing Group. Franco Crupi is still the com­pany’s pres­i­dent, while Joe Crupi was the trea­surer un­til about 2014.

The suit names both broth­ers plus four com­pa­nies they’re al­leged to have been di­rect­ing.

In an in­ter­view, Franco Crupi — who has not been crim­i­nally charged — told the Na­tional Post he will be fully defending him­self.

OTTAWA • Amanda Lind­hout’s mother says one of her daugh­ter’s al­leged So­ma­lian ab­duc­tors feared “he was be­ing set up” for a dou­ble­cross as ar­range­ments for a ran­som pay­ment were be­ing fi­nal­ized.

Lorinda Stewart told an On­tario court Thurs­day that talks with Ali Omar Ader in early Novem­ber 2009 did not go well be­cause Ader sud­denly be­came “an­gry and afraid.”

Lind­hout was a free­lance jour­nal­ist from Red Deer, Alta., when she and Aus­tralian pho­tog­ra­pher Nigel Bren­nan were grabbed near Mogadishu in Au­gust 2008. Both were re­leased in Novem­ber 2009.

Ader, 40, has pleaded not guilty in On­tario Su­pe­rior Court to a crim­i­nal charge of hostage-tak­ing for his al­leged role. He was ar­rested by the RCMP in Ottawa in June 2015. It emerged dur­ing pre­trial mo­tions last spring that the Moun­ties had lured Ader to Canada through an elab­o­rate scheme to sign a pur­ported book-pub­lish­ing deal.

The Crown says Ader ad­mit­ted to un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tors on two oc­ca­sions that he was the ne­go­tia­tor in the kid­nap­ping and that he was paid $10,000 for his ser­vices.

Stewart tes­ti­fied that she flew to Nairobi, Kenya, to help ar­range for the re­lease of her daugh­ter and Bren­nan af­ter many months of dis­tress­ing long-dis­tance calls.

At one point, the cap­tors were de­mand­ing US$2.5 mil­lion, but the fam­i­lies as­sem­bled less than US$700,000 af­ter months of des­per­ately try­ing to raise funds.

The plan was to elec­tron­i­cally trans­fer the ran­som funds from Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, to Mogadishu through a money-trans­fer ser­vice. An ini­tial at­tempt to pay the ran­som did not work out, but a sec­ond ef­fort suc­ceeded.

Trevor Brown, an Ot­tawabased lawyer for Ader, painted Stewart’s se­ries of con­ver­sa­tions as some­thing of a con­fus­ing web due to Ader’s heavy ac­cent and lim­ited English and the dif­fi­culty of hear­ing prop­erly on over­seas phone links. He sug­gested it was im­pos­si­ble to know what role Ader was play­ing.

Stewart ac­knowl­edged re­ceiv­ing a fol­low-up phone mes­sage from Ader in Jan­uary 2010, as well as later con­tact through Face­book.

Ader said he wanted to help Lind­hout, and claimed he was “play­ing two sides” in the ne­go­ti­a­tions in or­der to save her, Brown told the court. Stewart said she didn’t nec­es­sar­ily be­lieve Ader. “I didn’t trust him.”

Ali Omar Ader

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