(Trinidad Guardian) Arrested on corruption charges in Panama last month, Dr Arthur Porter once had plans to extend his chain of cancer clinics to T&T. Porter was arrested en route to T&T in May on charges of conspiracy, embezzlement, fraud and breach of trust against the Canadian government. Porter and his co-defendants—former CEO of the Canadian conglomerate SNC-Lavalin Group Inc Pierre Duhamie and its former executive vice president Riadh Ben Aissa—are facing charges in connection with a multimillion-dollar bribery scandal.
SNC-Lavalin has been retained by the Canadian Commercial Corporation to build the Penal hospital for the T&T Government. Three years before his arrest, T&T Guardian reporter Yvonne Baboolal interviewed Porter in November 2010, while he was visiting Trinidad. At the time he said he wanted to bring cancer treatment in T&T to world-class standards. Joking that “I have lots of jobs. I live on a plane,” he said as a cancer physician he had tried to help business entities in the Caribbean develop first-class cancer facilities.
In 2009, he made contact with Dr Rupert Indar Jr, director of Southern Medical Clinic. “We talked about putting the two centres (in T&T and the Bahamas) together and developing a Caribbean network of cancer care,” Porter said. But his talks with his T&T colleagues went no further and there was no “management relationship.”
Porter appears to have exaggerated his business involvement in T&T. An online news agency called Tribune 242 reported on July 1, 2012, that since 2011, Porter’s ten-year-old Bahamas Cancer Centre had expanded and was “forging a management relationship in Trinidad, beginning construction of a new centre in Antigua and establishing an outreach clinic in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
In an interview with the T&T Guardian, Indar said he and Porter had held discussions with Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan in 2011, but explained that Porter was in no way affiliated with his clinic. Indar Jr, whose father, Rupert Indar Snr, is the chairman of the board of Southern Medical, said Porter was not a shareholder or a director. He said: “Dr Porter is an oncologist with foreign financiers and they approached us, as the leading oncology centre, to see if they could finance a project with us at the Ministry of Health in 2011.
“There was no agreement. There was no contract. That was nothing more than discussions. “The last time I saw Dr Porter was when he met the Minister of Health in 2011. The last time I saw him in Trinidad was when we had that meeting.” Health Minister Khan yesterday confirmed meeting with Indar in 2011 to discuss developing oncology centres but said he could not remember if Porter was part of the discussions.
“I know that Rupert Indar Jr from Southern Medical wanted to develop oncology throughout the country,” Khan said. “We had a proposal to have a public-private partnership for the development of oncology centres in different parts of the country but we had already embarked on the national oncology centre so we didn’t follow through.
“At that time I told them if the project had to go, we would have to roll out a tender to give everybody a chance. It would have to be tendered by the Central Tenders Board.” Porter’s plans for T&T never went further.
Factfile on Porter
Porter was born in 1956 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and studied at Cambridge, Harvard and Toronto. In 2008, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper made him head of the country’s spy watchdog, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, and a member of the Privy Council for Canada. He was also on the board of Air Canada. In December 2011, he resigned as CEO of McGill University Health Centre in Montreal after suspicious business practices emerged.
On May 27, 2013, Porter and his wife were detained by Interpol. He was later charged with fraud, conspiracy to commit government fraud, abuse of trust, secret commissions and laundering the proceeds of a crime. Porter’s wife was also facing charges of laundering the proceeds of a crime and conspiracy.
The contract to build the superhospital was awarded to SNC-Lavalin Group Inc, the same company that wants to build the Penal hospital. Two senior SNC-Lavalin executives were charged along with Porter. Porter is arguing that he is too ill to stand trial. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer by Karol Sikora, an oncologist who works with Porter in the Bahamas. Sikora also diagnosed the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, as having only three months to live in 2009.
Megrahi, who had prostate cancer, was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, returned home to Libya and died in May 2012.