Corruption at the Winneway dam is at the centre of a government inquiry ordered by Premier Jacques Parizeau May 30.
Disturbing revelations have surfaced about bribes possibly being paid to government officials, drug money-laundering and even the involvement of bikers in the Winneway dam.
The inquiry will probe the sale of the Winneway dam and dozens of other small hydro-electric dams to private developers by the previous Liberal government Many of the dams were sold to associates of the Liberal Party at bargain basement prices.
Hydro-Quebec then signed lucrative contracts to buy back the power, even though it already had far more power in its network than it needed.
Months ago, Montreal police started their own investigation into Hydro P-1, the company that owned the Winneway dam, and Peter Kuczer, the company’s president The Winneway dam is located just 100 yards downstream from the Algonquin community of Winneway, which unsuccessfully bid to buy it in 1991. Instead, the dam was sold at the 11th-hour to Hydro P-1 while the public tender period was still open.
Last fall, Kuczer’s company went bankrupt. His creditors took over the dam but are still owed $19 million. They say $40 million passed through his bank accounts in the last two years, far more than the company’s income during that period.
Kuczer was arrested last year in the U.S. on drug money-laundering charges, but released for lack of evidence.
In a previous issue of The Nation, we reported that a top Liberal official, Clément Patenaude, may have brokered a deal to sell the Winneway dam to Kuczer. After getting the dam,
Kuczer donated $3,000 to the Liberals. An inquiry is likely to probe whether some private developers paid bribes for the dams.
In a front-page story in La Presse, Patenaude admitted he met with Kuczer to discuss the dam. Patenaude also met the company’s “lobbyist,” André Dubois.
According to La Presse, Dubois is an associate of Guy Lepage, head of the Rockers biker gang, which is allied with the Hell’s Angels in a bloody war against the Rock Machine. Lepage spent three months in jail this year after pleading guilty to counterfitting bank notes.
Kuczer said he doesn’t remember meeting Patenaude. “It’s possible,” he told The Nation. “Could be. I don’t know. I mean I meet so many people. You know, I meet 50, 60 people a day.”
The premier ordered the inquiry after Montreal police, the SQ, RCMP and the engineers’ union at Hydro-Quebec all launched their own investigations. The engineers found that Hydro-Quebec had lost $200 million buying back power it didn’t need from the private power producers. In turn, those power producers gave $460,000 to the Liberals between 1980 and 1993.
Suspicions about Hydro-Quebec contracts flowing to pals of the government are nothing new.
The Nation reported last August that many of the $400 million in contracts for the Great Whale environment impact review went to companies run by Liberal donors. These donors in turn gave $89,000 to the Liberals between 1989 and 1993.
Congratulations to Dan Robins whose article about the contracts won an award for Best Investigative Story from the Quebec Community Newspaper Association (see page 7).