Column: Will the real Michael Beattie please step forward

A matter of integrity

by Dermod Travis,

Sometimes the real identity behind a fake identity story can be just as good a story. This may be one of those times.

Meet Michael Beattie, a resident of Brantford, Ontario.

Last month, Mr. Beattie had a BA in engineering from McGill University, an MBA from Western University (sic) and “a personal net worth of $228 million,” all according to his very fictitious bio on his very fictitious website.

Turns out he’s a convicted perjurer and fraudster and is facing new charges for fraud over $5,000, laundering proceeds of crime, and possession of proceeds of property obtained by crime over $5,000 in Ontario.

He had been Caledon, Ontario’s fleet manager in the town’s public works department when he was charged in 2016.

Beattie’s lawyer for his latest endeavour – Grant McGlaughlin at Goodmans LLP, a Bay Street, Toronto law firm – initially denied “that his client was the man who was charged,” The Globe and Mail reported.

This week, Beattie was dumped by the firm.

Why is any of this relevant to British Columbia?

Claiming to be a construction magnate, Beattie had been beating the drums against a proposed $1.5 billion bid by Chinese state-controlled enterprise China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC) for Canadian construction firm Aecon.

Aecon is part of the AFDE Partnership, a joint venture that includes Flatiron, Dragados and EBC Inc., which has been selected by BC Hydro “as the preferred proponent to move to the next phase for the Site C generating station and spillways contract.”

Flatiron and Dragados are divisions of Madrid-based ACS Grupo. Along with Quebec-based EBC Inc. they’re part of the consortium building Montreal’s new Champlain bridge.

In December, Montreal media reported that more than 2,000 repairs have already been undertaken on defects with the still under construction bridge.

In meetings with MPs earlier this month, Beattie was accompanied by McGlaughlin and up to three lobbyists, including former CBC broadcaster – now with Ottawa-based Ensight Canada – Don Newman and Joseph Belan, a Swiss-based businessman.

The subject matter of Beattie’s lobbying was “to provide an introduction to (his fictitious) MBM Investment Corp. and to discuss the China-Canada Free Trade agreement and issues related to the Investment Canada Act.”

The former fleet manager told The Globe and Mail – before his ruse had been uncovered – that he felt many in Canada’s construction industry: “oppose the sale on national-security grounds, pointing to Aecon’s widespread involvement in critical infrastructure projects from nuclear energy to pipelines, transit and hydro-hydroelectric projects such as the massive Site C project in B.C.”

Adding for effect, “(CCCC) has no accountability because they are tools of the Communist Party.”

Puzzling, though.

How could a Bay Street law firm that has counted at least five state-controlled enterprises of the Chinese government among its clients – “tools of the Communist Party of China” no less – take on Beattie as a client?

One of its partners, Hong Kong-based Felix Fong, is a member of the 400-member Selection Committee for the purposes of electing the Chief Executive for Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Hong Kong members to the People’s Congress of China.

Then there’s this other nagging matter.

How does Goodmans take on Beattie as a client, when it happily promotes the fact that one its other clients was Aecon?

Was Goodmans going to risk flushing its China business down the drain for Beattie, a client who has insulted the country at every opportunity over the past four months? China is not well known for taking insults in stride.

Before Ottawa approves the CCCC takeover, there’s some new questions that need to be asked in light of Beattie’s shenanigans.

How exactly did Beattie – a former fleet manager facing criminal charges – end up as a player in this $1.5 billion acquisition, and why?

Who paid the legal and lobbying bills, Beattie or a third-party? And if Beattie did, was he later reimbursed by a third-party?

BC Hydro officials may want to hold off signing any contracts with the AFDE Partnership until this has all played out. Never hurts to know who you’re actually signing an agreement with.

Who comes out looking bad in the whole Beattie affair? The opponents to the CCCC takeover, all tarnished by his deception.

Who wins from all of this? The proponents.

What a coincidence.

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.

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