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SAINT-HYACINTHE - The Quebec government wants to crack down on white-collar crime by imposing stiffer sentences in areas it controls while pressing Ottawa to take action on the criminal side, Premier Jean Charest said today.


One week after Vincent Lacroix, one of Canada’s most notorious financial fraudsters, had his original 12-year prison sentence cut to less than half by the Quebec Court of Appeal, Charest signalled change is in the works.


Charest said the latest case involving alleged fraudster Earl Jones is a “terrible, terrible,” tragedy for victims who had put their confidence in a man who, as it turns out, was not a regulated financial adviser.


Charest said the first thing that has to happen is better inform Quebecers about their financial options when they attain retirement age so people know what they’re getting into and do no fall into traps run by fraudsters.


But he wants to go further.


“The sentences are part of what needs to be done,” Charest said on his way into a meeting of the Quebec Liberal caucus this morning in Saint-Hyacinthe. “I am ready and willing to review this concept of consecutive and concurrent sentences which is a principle of common law recognzed by the courts. We can act on this penal level.


“But there are constitutional limitations on what we in Quebec can do at the penal level. We are in a system which allows us to go as far as two years. It’s the maximum Quebec can impose.


“We are ready to review this because we want the sentences to be proportional.”


In its decision, the court ruled that under Quebec securities law, the terms of Lacroix's sentence should have been concurrent, not consecutive. The Autorité des marchés financiers, the securities regulatory body that successfully prosecuted Lacroix on 51 Quebec Securities Act violations.


Lacroix was convicted of swindling 9,200 investors in his now-bankrupt Norbourg Asset Management Inc. out of $115 million over a five-year period. The judge called the case "the biggest financial scandal in Canada.


Other minister added this morning that Quebec is looking at a comprehensive plan to fight white collar crime with Finance Minister Raymond Bachand adding Revenue Quebec is willing to help Jones’ alleged victims who are being taxed on revenues they do not necessarily have.


(Courtesy of The Montreal Gazette)

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