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Sheegl bribery case appeal challenges summary judgement

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Winnipeg’s former chief administrative officer is arguing a Manitoba judge erred in not calling for a trial before ruling he took a bribe during the construction of the scandal-laden city police headquarters.

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Winnipeg’s former chief administrative officer is arguing a Manitoba judge erred in not calling for a trial before ruling he took a bribe during the construction of the scandal-laden city police headquarters.

In March, Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal ruled in favour of the City of Winnipeg, finding Phil Sheegl accepted a $327,000 bribe from a key contractor in the project, Caspian Construction owner Armik Babakhanians.

In a May 4 judgement, Joyal ordered Sheegl to pay the city approximately $1.1 million, including the $327,000.

Former City of Winnipeg Chief Administrative Officer Phil Sheegl. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Sheegl launched an appeal of the decision May 30, with his lawyer, Robert Tapper, claiming the decision was “clearly wrong and amounts to an injustice.”

In an Aug. 5 appeal court document, Tapper argued the case was too complex for a summary judgement (a decision made by a judge without a trial).

“It is readily apparent from the complex and voluminous documentary record before this court that the plaintiff’s motion is not suited for summary judgement,” Tapper wrote in the factum of appellants.

Serious allegations linked to the Winnipeg Police Service HQ at 266 Graham Ave. have plagued city council for years.

The building opened in June 2016 at a cost of about $214 million, well above its original $135 million price tag. An external audit found the project was severely mismanaged.

The RCMP conducted a lengthy investigation into fraud and forgery allegations, but no criminal charges were laid.

Shortly after the RCMP investigation wrapped, the city launched a civil suit against Sheegl and upwards of 30 others in 2020, alleging a fraudulent scheme took place. Sheegl’s case was later severed from the suit to be heard alone.

The city’s case against the rest of the defendants has not yet been settled.

It alleged in July 2011, shortly after Sheegl awarded the contract to Caspian, the company paid $200,000 to co-defendant Mountain Construction (also owned by Babakhanians), which then paid the same amount to Sheegl’s company, Financial Support Services Inc.

Tapper argued the judge’s reliance on the city’s email evidence should have been tested at trial because the Sheegl decision will impact others in the city’s lawsuit. The lawyer called that evidence hearsay.

The purpose of severing the case was to avoid Sheegl being “thrown into a case involving construction frauds (and hundreds of thousands of documents) totally irrelevant to this severed case,” Tapper said in the court document.

The defence lawyer also wrote Joyal erred in ordering Sheegl to repay the $327,000 and the severance he received from the city ($250,000).

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