The City of Winnipeg alleges the director of its downtown police headquarters project — an official hired to look after the city’s interests — received a $105,000 “kickback” from the main contractor on the job, according to a recent court filing.
That allegation is part of a notice of motion filed May 4 as part of the city’s ongoing lawsuit against contractor Armik Babakhanians, his company Caspian and dozens of other defendants.
The city claims police headquarters project director Ossama AbouZeid and his company Dunmore received $105,000 from Mountain Construction, a Babakhanians-controlled company.
In a civil judgment, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench has already ruled that former Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl received a bribe when he accepted a $327,200 payment from Mountain Construction.
Sheegl, who was ordered to pay the city $1.1 million in damages, plans to appeal that decision, his lawyer Robert Tapper has said.
The city launched its lawsuit in January 2020, alleging more than two dozen defendants were involved in a “scheme” of fraud, embezzlement and kickbacks related to the construction project.
The latest court filing seeks to amend the city’s claim by adding more allegations, people and companies to the lawsuit, which contends the defendants conspired to inflate and overcharge for work on the $214-million project.
In the new filing, the city claims Mountain transferred the funds to AbouZeid and Dunmore in April 2011.
That was one month before Dunmore’s contract with the city started, and several months before Caspian was awarded a $137-million contract to renovate a former Canada Post warehouse building into the new Winnipeg Police Service headquarters.
The City of Winnipeg has sued dozens of people and companies involved in the construction of its police headquarters for what it describes in court documents as a ‘scheme’ to defraud taxpayers. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)
The city claims in the filing the money was transferred “with the knowledge that Dunmore and/or AbouZeid were agents of the city” in a business relationship with other defendants “at the time the kickbacks were issued, in order to influence them to procure one or more of the defendants other unfair procurement advantages.”
In earlier court filings, the city called AbouZeid and Dunmore “co-conspirators” with Sheegl and Babakhanians. Those documents allege Sheegl helped ensure a Winnipeg Police Service employee was removed as a project manager on the police HQ project and AbouZeid was hired as project director.
The city’s court filings include excerpts from email exchanges between Babakhanians and Peter Chang, an official who worked for the structural engineering firm Adjeleian Allen Rubeli.
Chang is also being sued by the city.
Chang wrote to Babakhanians to vent his frustrations with the project in 2012, according to the court filings.
Babakhanians wrote back to Chang, saying “I have Ossama there because he brings no other value than agreeing to anything also he is on …….