Canada to set minimum prison term for fraud

Tue Oct 20, 2009 12:23pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government will introduce legislation on Wednesday that would for the first time require a mandatory prison sentence for those convicted of a major fraud, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said on Tuesday.

The bill would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of two years for fraud over C$1 million ($960,000). Nicholson spokeswoman Genevieve Breton said this would effectively eliminate conditional sentences and serving sentences at home.

The maximum penalty of 14 years will remain.

Nicholson said the government would also seek to eliminate the ability of white-collar criminals to get out on parole after serving a small fraction of their time.

Canadian courts have in fact recently been taking a harder line on white-collar criminals. Vincent Lacroix, the former head of Norbourg Asset Management Inc, who defrauded 9,200 investors of C$130 million, was handed a 13-year sentence after pleading guilty to 200 charges. The sentence was the longest ever handed out in Canada for what is deemed to be a white-collar offense.

As well, former Broadway impresario Garth Drabinsky was given a seven-year sentence in August for his role in a half-billion-dollar fraud at now defunct theater company Livent. Drabinsky's partner, Myron Gottleib, was given six years.

Some U.S. courts have taken a far harsher view of white-collar criminals. Indeed, Bernie Madoff, convicted of swindling as much as $65 billion from clients in what ranks as the largest-ever Wall Street investment fraud, was handed a 150-year sentence earlier this year for his crimes.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer and Scott Haggett; editing by Peter Galloway)