Today I bring you a subject dear to the hearts of many Canadians...our justice system. Or more commonly known as our injustice system for it's many lapses. Court foibles, ostensibly created by lack of accountability have certainly made standing around the water cooler more interesting! This latest chapter is entitled 'let us defend innocent men' by Terrence Corcoran, published in the Globe and Mail. Once again, it is presented verbatim, below is my response and below that, room for your comment, unless you prefer to send an email but please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack others personally, and keep your language decent.
Let us now defend innocent men: Frank Dunn, Vic De Zen, Andrew Rankin, John Felderhof — all convincingly acquitted of corporate crime. They need defending against the persistent and slanderous media-fed belief that, in cases like these, acquittal does not end the presumption of guilt. It’s the Canadian system — of regulators, enforcement, police, government and even the judiciary — that failed to find them guilty of the wrongdoing they actually must have committed.
This must stop, this Canadian media ritual. Whenever some corporate accused is found not guilty, the hunt is on for an explanation of what is portrayed as a miscarriage of justice. And so, after an Ontario Superior Court Judge this week acquitted Frank Dunn and two other former Nortel executives of fraud, the insinuations began. A Globe and Mail reporter trotted out the familiar complaint: “Canada’s reputation remains intact as a place where convictions of white collar crime cases are rare.”
Such sentences contain the built-in assumption that a “white collar crime” has occurred, and implies that the Canadian system has failed because there was no conviction, which means the guilty were not found guilty. A Reuters news story followed the same logic, quoting a Washington lawyer making the same charge. “What the verdict here [Nortel] tells people is the difficulty of trying to prove these kind of cases. Financial fraud cases are notoriously difficult to prove.”
In other words, a crime or fraud is assumed to have occurred, but the regulators, prosecutors and others in Canada — including the courts — are just not capable of marshalling the evidence and reaching the conclusion that we all know to be true. Others said the Nortel acquittals proved, again, that the RCMP’s Integrated Market Enforcement Teams (IMETs) was inadequately trained or staffed, or lacked the legal and financial sophistication necessary. If only Canadian authorities were more competent, committed, experienced, dedicated, and aggressive — or perhaps less steeped in the ways of the corporate establishment — then Canada’s corporate criminals would be behind bars rather than free men.
Other legendary cases in this parade of innocent men include Vic De Zen, Andrew Rankin and John Felderhof. Let us all, as Canadians, recognize once and for all that these men, along with Mr. Dunn, have been found not guilty and have been acquitted of the allegations against them. Vic De Zen: The former founder and CEO of Royal Group Technologies, who was dragged through an outrageous mud field of innuendo — ranging from drug dealing suspicions, hints of money laundering and fraud — before he was charged. After a monster trial, the case crashed in 2010.
Instead of assuming that Mr. De Zen is another Canadian the system failed to nail as criminal, let us note the unequivocal words of Ontario Justice Richard Blouin: “I am unable to conclude the defendants committed any dishonest acts, were deceitful, or employed any other fraudulent means to deprive, or put at risk of deprivation, the company.” He continued: “I find in this case the evidence to be overwhelming that there was no attempt to conceal anything.”
The Crown has appealed the De Zen acquittal, but that is not reason for observers and the media to continue to trot out Royal Group as an example of unpunished illegal behaviour. The judge found no case.
Andrew Rankin: Once portrayed as the centre of a vast Bay Street insider trading ring, Mr. Rankin was acquitted in 2006 after a court review. The vast insider ring proved to be nothing of the sort. Mr. Rankin was not part of whatever was going on, which mostly appears to have been the work of another man whose evidence was used against Mr. Rankin. The review court even went so far as to say that Mr. Rankin had been the victim of a “miscarriage of justice.”
John Felderhof: Mr. Felderhof is the global symbol of Canada’s alleged inability to convict the guilty. He became the central prosecutorial target in the wake of the Bre-X gold mine scandal of 1996, but after a trial that achieved notoriety for its length and hard-fought legal battles, Mr. Felderhof was acquitted.
No Canadian corporate crime story can be written without citing the Felderhof/Bre-X case as a template for Canada’s inability to come up with big corporate crime convictions, as if Canada were filled with corporate malefactors who escape punishment. It is long past time to purge Bre-X from the Canadian corporate psyche.
The Nortel executives, including Mr. Dunn, are likely to continue to be portrayed, in the indirect and slanderous way that is now typical, as men who escaped just desserts. If only Canada had tough corporate crime-fighting regime like the United States, where settlements and convictions seem more numerous.
Certainly settlements are common in the United States, but they do not mean that crime is more effectively punished or even exists. Nortel, after all, settled a U.S. class action suit and paid out $2.4-billion on the grounds that Mr. Dunn as CEO and other executives had cooked the books. Many would assume that Mr. Dunn was therefore guilty.
But as we now know, the Nortel settlement was a function of the now routine business of corporate capitulation in the face of regulatory attack or class action activism. Nortel’s settlement implied the guilt of a man who a court this week ruled, firmly and with conviction, was not guilty.
It is time to stop the endless prosecution and implied conviction of innocent men.
Is it possible that Terrence has been drinking 'kool-aid' served by the accused or is he just playing devil's advocate, attempting to elicit the opposite reaction?? If any accusation made about lack of accountability in our justice system could lead to an elected judiciary, this article by Terrence best summarizes the most popular examples of injustice and might just be at the top of the list. Like OJ, when you lose in a civil trial, how many really care about the jury pool in the criminal trial. When Nortel was forced to pay out $2.4-billion because Mr. Dunn as CEO and other executives had cooked the books, is what came after mere prologue?
But for shock and surprise, the Felderhof acquittal may still reigns supreme as having the greatest chilling effect on business investment regulation in Canada, specifically Canadian Mining stock investment. I mean, wasn't Felderhof the gold-mining geologist of record for Bre-X, a company found to be involved in a 'salting' operation? His escape and refusal to return from the Cayman Islands was not unlike OJ's much publicized travels down a Los Angeles freeway before his arrest and like OJ's defense team who jumped on any excuse to deflect attention away from the star of the show, Felderhof's acquittal was a damning indictment on the prosecution team who where accused of being woefully inept by the conclusion of the trial.
So, is it time to stop the endless prosecution and implied conviction of 'innocent men' as Terrence suggests? Or, no matter what, once your reputation is lost in the court of public opinion, it can be very difficult, if not impossible to get it back! While unlike OJ, who today languishes in a Nevada jail, is Felderhof just a free man in name only as one who has turned into the poster boy for everything that is wrong with our justice system and one who may not be 'purged from the Canadian corporate psyche' any time soon?
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