March 04, 2013
Dr. Arthur Porter was not surprised when an anti-corruption squad in Canada issued a warrant for his arrest. The former chief executive of the McGill University Health Centre, facing several fraud-related charges stemming from the construction of the $1.3 billion project, said over the weekend that he has been the source of so many allegations in recent years. It was just another blow, albeit a big one, in a long-standing fight. What surprises Porter is that authorities from Canada and The Bahamas have not contacted him in any way. The arrest warrant was issued on Wednesday morning, five days ago today. Porter strongly denies any wrongdoing. "I have officially still not heard [from police]," he told The Nassau Guardian.
"For the last year and a half I have been targeted for practically everything that happened in Montreal. "Seeing bad news in the press from Canada was not something I was surprised about. And now it does bring it to a head because there is something to answer. There is something to tackle and resolve." Porter, who is also the former head of Canada's spy watchdog, is no stranger to challenges these days. The noted oncologist announced last week that he is suffering from stage four cancer, which began in the lung and spread to the liver. Dr. Duane Sands, a well-known physician in Nassau, also confirmed the diagnosis.
Porter reported belabored breathing over the weekend, insisting that he is "fighting a battle" that has both good days and bad days. He said on Saturday that the experience has given him a new-found empathy for the thousands of patients he has treated over the years. "I never really experienced what they were going through when they left my office," he explained. "Now I stand in the shower and see my hair around my feet. I can't breathe. I coughed up blood. I feel sick to my stomach. I have to take tablets. "I have watched my weight go down, which I have been trying to do for years, but this time I know this is not a great Atkins diet."
Maintaining a healthy sense of humor has been important to Porter. Now undergoing a second round of chemotherapy, he said the side effects have worsened. "But I still smile," he said. Porter has also not shied away from defending his innocence. Late last week, Canadian media reported that an affidavit had been released that provided a more detailed account of the alleged fraud. According to the document, Porter and another MUHC executive orchestrated the transfer of $22.5 million from SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., the engineering firm that eventually won the hospital contract, to Bahamas-based company Sierra Asset Management.
Jeremy Morris, the man allegedly in charge of the firm, is also wanted by Canadian authorities. The affidavit goes on to allege that the payment influenced the decision to award SNC-Lavalin the contract. On Saturday, Porter reiterated his position that he has never heard of Sierra Asset Management or Jeremy Morris. He further insisted that fraud in relation to the hospital contract would have been improbable given the complexity of the public private partnership, which included regular audits and heavy participation from government.
"If you look at the bidders on the process, they were of such size and power within the providence, they themselves did not need people like me, a guy who barely spoke French and was a hospital administrator, to deal with what they needed to do within the province," he explained. The physician said that he is willing to sit down with authorities in The Bahamas to explain the matter further. For now, Porter said he is not going anywhere. "Would I like to get on a plane? Of course. I'd like to stand up for 15 minutes," he said. He called The Bahamas his home and a place where his children went to school.
Porter has enjoyed permanent residency in The Bahamas for more than 10 years. He also referred to Prime Minister Perry Christie as a "very good person" who was serving his first term in office, back in 2002, when Porter first arrived in the country. The oncologist managed his practice at The Cancer Centre in Nassau during his tenure as CEO of MUHC by flying back to The Bahamas nearly every weekend. "I think he (Christie) has been a supporter of the center. When it comes to advice, like for stem cells, I have provided my advice where I'm able to," he added. "I look at The Bahamas as home. So I want it to be successful."
Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian