Quebec police arrest 4, seek 3 in major fraud probe

MONTREAL – Arrest warrants have been issued for three European men in connection with a sweep conducted Wednesday morning in the Montreal region, involving 130 investigators and officers from the Quebec provincial police and the RCMP.

Officials with the Surete du Quebec said international elements of the crackdown on an alleged money-laundering ring involve links with various shell companies operated in Switzerland and Belgium.

The raids were designed to crack open what lnsp. Denis Morin, head of the SQ’s financial-integrity-investigation squad, described as a combination money-laundering and tax-evasion scheme allegedly centered on Societe Financiere Speedo (1993) Inc. of Montreal.

Four people have already been arrested, including Ronald Chicoine, 57, of Montreal, owner of Speedo.

He’s described by Morin as the ringleader of the operation, which is alleged to have siphoned $12 million of taxes that should have been paid to Quebec and federal tax authorities between 1996 and last year.

Wednesday’s raids were accompanied by judicial seizure orders which froze $48 million of assets – $38 million of that under Speedo’s name, said Miron. The legal freeze is considered among the largest seizure orders of its type in Canadian history, said Chief Insp. Francois Roux of the SQ.

Some of the working capital for the arrangement was furnished by "various cells of organized crime," Roux said. When asked, he refused to specify whether investors in the ring are believed to include motorcycle gangs or the Mafia.

Regis Dini, 60, and Alain Vayda, 67, two of the Europeans being sought, are Swiss residents. The third man still at large, Jacques Stalmans, 74, is a resident of Belgium, the SQ added.

In addition to Chicoine, the three others arrested are: Serge Perrier, 50, of St. Eustache, a chartered accountant who handled the accounting at Speedo; Andre Ronald Comeau, 58, a resident of Ste-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson; and Johanne Leroux, 49, also from Ste-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson.

Locations raided in the Montreal region include the offices of a lawyer and two notaries, none of which were named by police. Two private residences and one accounting office were also raided.

The Montreal men face charges of fraud, fabrication and use of forged documents, money-laundering, conspiracy, gangsterism and breach of promise. Leroux is being charged separately, with possession and unlawful storage of a firearm.


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