Dermod Travis: Mysterious Michael Beattie story links back to Site C dam and B.C. Hydro

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      Sometimes the real identity behind a fake-identity story can be just as good a tale. 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, a MBA from Western University (sic) and “a personal net worth of $228 million”—from business successes in the construction industry, mergers and acquisitions, and project management—all according to his very fictitious bio on one of his very fictitious websites.

      He also "takes great pride in his personal antiques and wine collection". Unfortunately, the Pinot noir could be fake, too, or a cheap imposter.

      Turns out, the Globe and Mail has reported that he's been convicted for perjury and fraud in Quebec and is facing unrelated charges for fraud over $5,000, laundering proceeds of crime, and possession of proceeds of property obtained by crime over $5,000 in Ontario.

      Beattie had been the Town of Caledon's fleet manager in the public works department when he was charged in 2016, after “an isolated, significant discrepancy in one business unit” was uncovered, by the Ontario municipal government.

      In 2015, he earned $128,000.

      Despite the media coverage at the time of his arrest, 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.

      That was last week.

      This week, Beattie was unceremoniously dumped by the firm, presumably after it did a Google search on their client of less than half a year.

      Why is any of this relevant to British Columbia?

      Claiming to be a major construction magnate with more than 145 employees, Beattie had been beating the drums against a proposed $1.5-billion bid by Chinese state-controlled enterprise China Communications Construction Co. International Holding Limited (CCCI) for Canadian construction firm Aecon.

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

      Flatiron and Dragados are both divisions of Madrid-based ACS Grupo.

      Along with ACS, Flatiron, Dragados, and SNC-Lavalin, Quebec-based EBC Inc. is 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 to denounce the CCCI bid, Beattie was accompanied by McGlaughlin and as many as three lobbyists: former CBC broadcaster Don Newman, who is now with Ottawa-based government relations firm Ensight Canada; Andrew Galloro with Toronto-based Navigator; and Joseph Belan, a Swiss-based businessman.

      Belan, age 43, has a remarkable corporate profile.

      In August 2016, he was appointed an independent non-executive director of mining company SouthGobi Resources, serving until last June.

      SouthGobi owns and operates the Ovoot Tolgoi coal mine in Mongolia. “It also holds the mining and exploration licences of its other metallurgical and thermal coal deposits in South Gobi Region of Mongolia. (The company) produces and sells coal to customers in China.”

      Until 2015, SouthGobi's largest shareholder was RioTinto, through one of its subsidiaries, Turquoise Hill Resources.

      Earlier this month, the Toronto Star  reported that “the Canadian government provided more than $1 billion in loans in 2015 to (Turquoise Hill) that (then) used a complex offshore business structure to allegedly avoid nearly $700 million in Canadian tax”.

      The subject matter of Beattie's lobbying—filed with Ottawa's commissioner of lobbying—was “to provide an introduction to MBM Investment Corporation [his fictitious mini-conglomerate] and to discuss the China-Canada Free Trade agreement and issues related to the Investment Canada Act”.

      The former fleet manager from Caledon was well-briefed on the finer points of acquisitions by state-controlled enterprises of the Chinese government.

      Consider what Beattie told The Globe and Mail.

      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 British Columbia”.

      And in a middling imitation of former U.S. red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy: "This is a bad deal for Canada. This is a destructive and destabilizing transaction...Aecon is the jewel of the Canadian construction market. Having a bad player come in and take Canada's jewel would be wrong. Let's be straight. [CCCI] has no accountability because they are tools of the Communist Party.”

      All in all, quite a performance.

      Aecon then issued a news release to correct "misleading information" about the role of the Communist Party of China in the operations of CCCI.

      Puzzling, though. Why go to all the trouble of creating a fictitious website—bio and CV—and then use your real name?

      More puzzling?

      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?

      Goodmans boasts that its “Toronto office...offers foreign and domestic clients a full range of services and expertise in all major areas of business law.”

      One Hong Kong-based partner, 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.

      He's also a director of China Overseas Friendship Association, a governmental organization of the People’s Republic of China.

      According to its promotional material, Goodmans has assisted “a Canadian public company with the acquisition of oil and gas interests in Hebei and Sichuan provinces—including the negotiation of joint venture and production sharing agreements with Chinese government agencies—and the negotiation of a strategic alliance agreement with China International Trust & Investment Corporation to develop oil and gas projects worldwide".

      It represented China Huaneng Group, China’s 15th largest state-owned enterprise, in Canada, acted for China International United Petroleum and Chemical Co., assisted, handled the syndicated note financing to develop CSH Gold Mine for China Gold International and represented “a PRC company and the Bank of China in connection with Canadian legal proceedings”.

      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, with McGlaughlin among the members of the firm's technology legal group that worked on the construction company's behalf?

      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 CCCI 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 in the public works department of Caledon, Ontario, facing criminal charges—end up as a player in this $1.5-billion proposed 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?

      You sure as heck know it wasn't pro bono for firms that can charge up to $600 per hour.

      Beattie's status with Navigator may still be up in the air, although a national newspaper quoted from an email its executive chairman Jamie Watt sent: "We are proud of the success we have had on this matter."

      Meanwhile back at the executive offices of B.C. 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 looking bad in the whole Beattie affair? The opponents to the CCCI takeover, all tarnished by his deception.

      Who wins from all of this? The proponents.

      What a coincidence.