QUEBEC - The Quebec government has announced that it will investigate high-ranking members of the provincial police for possible criminal activity.
Public Safety Minister Stephane Bergeron said the senior officials being targeted are suspected of improperly using of a special-operations fund.
The money is supposed to fund investigative operations, like paying informants. But Bergeron said people drew from it to pay severance packages and also a consultant who had been barred from receiving government contracts because of his tax troubles.
Bergeron said that fund is also supposed to be rigorously accounted for — and he said that didn't necessarily happen in this case.
Speaking in Quebec City, the minister told a news conference Wednesday that the activities in question could be a criminal offence for breach of trust.
"The alleged facts are extremely troubling," Bergeron said.
"I'm well aware of the tumult this will cause."
Bergeron said he has created a special task force to investigate, comprising mostly retired police officers. He says he had to take that step because the legislature has yet to adopt a bill that would create a special-investigation unit in the province.
He said those being investigated have been suspended, with pay.
Bergeron said the behaviour was uncovered when the newly elected PQ government replaced the head of the provincial police force and tasked the new administration with finding cost savings. He used the case as an example of his new government's commitment to ethics.
"This shows that nobody — regardless of rank or status — is above the law," Bergeron said.