Commentary: The mysterious Mr. Beattie and Site C (February 15, 2018)

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 is likely fake too or a cheap imposter.

Turns out 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 Caledon, Ontario’s fleet manager in the town’s public works department, when he was charged in 2016, after “an isolated, significant discrepancy in one business unit” was uncovered, by the town. (See update below).

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 they 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, sometimes – depending upon the day of the week seemingly – employing “some 200 team members,” “with 195 employees” or “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. (CCCC) 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 BC 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 defects had been found on the still under construction bridge.

In meetings with MPs earlier this month to denounce the CCCC bid, Beattie was accompanied by McGlaughlin and as many as four high-priced lobbyists, including former CBC broadcaster – now with Ottawa-based government relations firm Ensight Canada – Don Newman, Andrew Balfour, Andrew Galloro with Toronto-based Navigator and Joseph Belan, a Swiss-based Canadian 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.”

In 2010, Goodmans represented SouthGobi in “connection with the completition of a global offering of 27 million of its common shares.”

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.”

Along with Lee Genier, Belan and McGlaughlin are also partners in a proposed Canadian Premier Soccer League team in Saskatchewant, announced last year.

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 by his handlers 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. (CCCC) has no accountability because they are tools of the Communist Party.”

All in all, quite a performance.

Puzzling, though. Why go to all the trouble of creating fictitious websites – 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 fifteenth largest state-owned enterprise, in Canada, acted for China International United Petroleum and Chemical Co., assisted China.com, 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 of 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 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 in the public works department of Caledon, Ontario 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?

You sure as heck know it wasn’t pro bono for public relations 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 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 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. www.integritybc.ca

February 15, 2018

 

Updates:

 

Mongolian anti-corruption authority asks Turquoise Hill for Oyu Tolgoi-related info

(March 13, 2018) Rio Tinto-controlled Vancouver miner Turquoise Hill Resources said March 13 it had received an “information” request from the Mongolian Anti-Corruption Authority (ACA) to provide financial information.

The petition relates to an investigation about possible abuse of power by authorized officials during negotiation of the 2009 Oyu Tolgoi investment agreement, the company said in a statement.

There is no indication in the ACA information request to suggest that Oyu Tolgoi is a subject of the investigation,” it noted.

 

Trudeau cabinet blocks Chinese takeover of Aecon over national security concerns

(May 23, 2018) The federal cabinet has invoked national security threats to block the proposed $1.5-billion takeover of Canadian construction giant Aecon Group Inc. by a Chinese state-owned enterprise − a decision that is likely to cause a rift with Beijing.

The sale of Toronto-based Aecon – the builder of critical infrastructure and the iconic CN Tower – to China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. (CCCC) was opposed by Canadian construction rivals and two former directors of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Sources with knowledge of the cabinet decision said Ottawa accepted the findings of a national security review that determined the acquisition was not in the country’s national security interest.

 

It’s back to figuring out what Canada truly wants from China

(May 24, 2018) The deal drew fire from several quarters, including rival construction companies, which raised corruption, safety and national security concerns, especially related to the nukes. Major competitors PCL Constructors Inc., Ledcor Group and P.W. Graham & Sons Construction met with senior bureaucrats to press their case.

In a bizarre episode of guerilla theatre, a man called Michael Beattie made the rounds in Ottawa to fire shots at the transaction, only to be revealed, not as the successful construction executive he claimed to be, but as a flimflam man who had previously been convicted of fraud and perjury.

 

Aecon ambiguity: In Ottawa, there are no easy answers to the China question

(May 25, 2018) Major competitors PCL Constructors Inc., Ledcor Group and P.W. Graham & Sons Construction met with senior bureaucrats to complain about the deal. In a strange twist, so did a man called Michael Beattie, who had portrayed himself as a big-time construction boss opposing China’s participation before it was revealed that it was an elaborate act by a convicted fraudster and perjurer.

UPDATE: “In July, the Superior Court of Ontario has dropped all fraud charges against Michael Beattie, former manager with the Town of Caledon.

While the criminal charges were dropped, in the Ontario Court of Justice this month Beattie pleaded guilty to an offence contrary to section 426 of Municipal Code, which covers obstruction charges. He received a $5,000 fine (which, with the mandatory victim fine surcharge amounts to $6,250) and one year of probation.

He also pleaded guilty to a fail to comply with an undertaking and received a conditional discharge with 18 months of probation.”

 

 

 

Michael Beattie in 2014-15, then-president of the Municipal Equipment & Operations Assoc.

At the time, Beattie was also Fleet Manager for the City of Cambridge, Ontario.

 

Beattie_B

 

 

 

2015 field trip