The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) will investigate allegations that the Montreal Police (SPVM) Internal Affairs division falsified evidence and reports in an effort to discredit officers who tried to blow the whistle on their corrupt peers. Neither the opposition parties nor the Montreal Police Brotherhood are satisfied with this solution.
Earlier this week, three ex-policemen came forward on TVA’s investigative journalism show J.E, accusing the SPVM of fabricating evidence against them after they tried to denounce malpractice and corruption within the service. The reporters uncovered evidence that the internal affairs investigations on ex-officers Roger Larivière, Giovanni Di Feo and Jimmy Cacchione were launched under false pretenses and based on fabricated evidence.
It is not the first scandal sparked by the SPVM’s endeavour to keep its dirty laundry from being aired in public. Only a few months ago we learned that they had no qualms about spying on journalists to uncover their confidential sources.
J.E’s findings were convincing enough that SPVM Director Paul Pichet claims he pressed the SQ to investigate them immediately after the show aired on Tuesday night. The SQ confirmed on Wednesday that a special team will be mandated to review the three cases, including past investigations and new elements.
Suspicious timing and non-existent godsons
In June 2013, Giovanni Di Feo and Jimmy Cacchione informed their superiors that they intended to write a letter to the Ministry and the media to denounce corruption and dishonest practices within the SPVM. Their long careers were brought to an abrupt end shortly after that, when an internal affair investigation turned up various charges against them, from complaints about their disrespect to superiors to suspicious connections with organized crime.
Both were two highly ranked officers of Italian origin who had served as double agents in the mafia and the Hells Angels. “For 28 years, we’ve been highly regarded for the quality of our sources, but then they became «suspicious connections»” says Cacchione.
In 2012, Di Feo and Cacchione had started pressing SPVM administration to address cases of “recurrent corruption that have lasted for several years.” Unbeknown to them, they were put under investigation instead.
The RCMP recorded multiple phone conversations that suggested suspicious friendliness between Di Feo and Luigi Coretti, a businessman accused of criminal fraud (charges were dropped due to exaggerated delays in procedures). Di Feo reportedly offered to pick up Coretti’s son from school several times. The SPVM even suggested that Di Feo might be the godfather of the child.
Coretti doesn’t even have children.
Di Feo and Cacchione’s case seems to be one of many. Ex SPVM inspector Roger Larivière told Radio-Canada on Wednesday: “the division of special investigations in SPVM are doing phony investigations. That is to say investigations that are directed by the headquarters, in order to target some individuals, like I’ve been targeted.”
In October 2014, Larivière tried to blow the whistle on internal affairs’ questionable practices. He wrote a letter to the SPVM then director Marc Parent and met with journalist Stéphane Berthomet. He was promptly investigated for leaking confidential information to the press. He was put under surveillance and his residence was searched – illegally, perhaps, as the Chief Inspector of Internal Affairs, Costa Labos was suspected of, although not charged with, lying to the judge in order to get the search warrant.
On Wednesday, a fourth ex-officer from Montreal brought a similar story to the Journal de Montréal. Ex-inspector Pietro Poletti claims that internal affairs destroyed his career with a falsified report.
SQ investigation raises controversy
SPVM Director Paul Pichet mandated the SQ to investigate. Premier Philippe Couillard and Minister of Security Martin Coîteux are both satisfied with this outcome, but the three opposition parties are rejecting the police-investigating-police route. They are unanimously calling for the Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes to handle the investigation.
In an interview with Radio-Canada, Pichet said that the situation was more aligned with the SQ’s mandate than with the BEI’s. “Honestly I think [the SQ] is well equipped and they have experienced investigators to do the job,” he claimed. He added that if, for whatever reason, the investigation was to be handled by the BEI or any other such institution, he would readily cooperate and do what he could “to shed some light on this.” Pichet insisted that it was important to preserve the trust of the people and of the 4600 SPVM officers in the Internal Affairs division.
For the Fraternité des Policiers et Policières de Montréal (the union representing SPVM officers), the director still has a very long way to go before they can talk about trust. The reopening of three cases by the SQ will not suffice to correct the course, the union warned in a press release. They are calling for the immediate resignation of the Chief Inspector of Internal Affairs and for the Ministry of Security’s direct intervention to correct the practices of the division.
* Featured image by Cem Ertekin