By Lisa Fitterman
Until early this year, Jean Lafleur was a suave ad man on the lam, living it up in Belize. A Montreal businessman who had his own company and socialized with Canada’s top Liberal Party movers and shakers, he was renting a luxurious two-bedroom home set amid bougainvillea and hibiscus bushes near the beach. He owned a 22-foot-long motorboat that was moored nearby, and he had a habit of spending up to 600 Canadian dollars (US$567) a week at a local gourmet shop on fine wines and cheeses. He loved to travel, taking off on occasion for places as far-flung as Italy, Brazil, France and Mexico.
Lafleur’s good life abruptly ended just before Easter, when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police issued an international warrant for his arrest on charges related to nearly 1.6 million Canadian dollars (US$1.51 million) he received from the federal government as payment for work he had never done. Rather than be chased down, he decided to come home of his own volition. Sporting a deep tan and handcuffs, he was ignominiously escorted into the prisoner’s dock of a Montreal courtroom and remanded into custody.