Arthur Porter had an 'aura': witness

Gabriel Soudry.

Once again, Arthur Porter and the awarding of the contract for the MUHC superhospital to SNC-Lavalin was the focus of the Charbonneau Commission's hearings.

There were more suggestions Wednesday that many of those involved in the process had their suspicions while it was unfolding.

Gabriel Soudry, a consultant representing the Quebec government during the process, said he never detected any effort on Porter's part to blatantly favour SNC-Lavalin over a Spanish rival, OHL Construction — in part because of his overwhelming personal charm.

At one point, he referred to the former MUHC head — and current fraud suspect — as an "exceptional" man with "a certain aura".

Soudry admitted that it was only when the Commission began looking into the superhospital contract, and when Porter and some of his cronies began to face charges, did he realize that Porter might not have been quite so squeaky-clean.

Previous witnesses had suggested that SNC-Lavalin gave Porter and his assistant, Yanai Elbaz bribes worth $22.5 million in order to win the superhospital project. Porter and Elbaz would then work to discredit anyone who dared run a competing bid.

Meanwhile, Immacalata Franco, an assistant director at the MUHC, also took the stand, and suggested Elbaz — who also faces fraud charges in connection with the superhospital project — constantly pressured her to support SNC-Lavalin's bid.

"[Elbaz] took care to remind me that I had to do what the boss [Arthur Porter] wanted, and to remind me of where my paycheck came from at that time."

She also said an internal memo circulated in December 2009 announcing SNC-Lavalin as the winner of the bid — even though the committees she had sat on had clearly preferred OHL's bid.

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