By Caribbean News Now contributor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Canadian authorities on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for the managing director of the Cancer Centre in The Bahamas, Dr Arthur Porter, and four other men, according to Quebec’s anti-corruption unit press liaison Anne-Frédérick Laurence.
Last year, Bahamas Minister of Health Dr Perry Gomez appointed Porter chairman of the government’s stem cell research task force.
Porter, who himself was diagnosed with cancer in January, is an oncologist residing in The Bahamas and is part owner of The Cancer Centre.
Porter, along with Yanai Elbaz, Jeremy Morris, Riadh Ben Aissa and Pierre Duhaime, are wanted in connection with 24 counts of fraud.
Porter is wanted in connection with fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud against the government, embezzlement, breach of trust, secret commissions and laundering proceeds of crime, according to Laurence.
She said the fraud counts are related to business dealings the men made with McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). Porter was CEO of the MUHC from 2004 to 2011.
Laurence said the five men have been under investigation since spring 2012. She added that Canadian authorities are already in communication with Bahamian police regarding Porter’s extradition.
But Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said on Wednesday afternoon he had not seen any requests related to Porter.
Porter issued a press statement on Wednesday, saying, “I am surprised and angered on hearing this information via the press.
“Whilst I am certain there is no basis in fact, I have yet to see any documentation.
“Since I left Montreal in 2011, I have been subjected to scurrilous and scandalous allegations in the media.
“However, I have never been contacted by the Montreal, Quebec or Canadian authorities in regard to this or any other matter.
“When I am provided with official information it will be reviewed and appropriate action will be taken.”
Porter has been involved in a firestorm of controversy in Canada relating to the alleged nonpayment of loans from McGill University and a litany of other allegations.
Porter, born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, was chairman of Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee, a member of the board of directors of Air Canada and a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.
Porter’s arrest also sparked controversy in the neighbouring Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), where he heads the oncology department of healthcare contractor InterHealth Canada (IHC) at the Cheshire Hall Medical Centre hospital in Providenciales.
The relationship between Porter and IHC is said to have started in 2011, when current premier, Dr Rufus Ewing, was then director of medical services. Ewing resigned effective March 31, 2012, to run for leader of the Progressive National Party (PNP), a post he won in June 2012.
One local weblog claims that Porter’s employment was the responsibility of the British interim administration, which ran the government of the TCI at the time.
However, this assertion seems to ignore the fact that the government does not control IHC, which is an independent private contractor that actually hired the doctor and, even if it did, Ewing was the civil servant responsible at the time for medical services in the TCI. IHC was brought to the TCI during the 2003-2009 PNP administration, which also appointed Ewing to head the territory’s medical services.
Despite earlier attempts by Ewing to distance himself from the 8,000 page contract with IHC, according to former PNP health minister Karen Delancy, he was instrumental in approving the IHC contract and the building of the two new hospitals in the TCI at enormous cost. The hospital buildings alone cost $125 million and provide a total of just 30 beds.
Ewing was also said by former government CEO Patrick Boyle to have had a “central role” in setting up the current health care system known as the National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP), which is reported to be costing the people of the TCI $60 million annually or approximately 40 percent of government revenue.
According to local observers, this latest claim is viewed as yet another attempt by Ewing to shift responsibility for the healthcare debacle in the TCI.
The Nassau Guardian contributed to this report