MONTREAL — Former Liberal Guy Ouellette says he's being intimidated and muzzled by the province's anti-corruption unit in an attempt keep him quiet.
In an exclusive interview with French-language radio station 98.5 FM conducted Friday but aired Monday, Ouellette said he fears he won't make it back to the legislature this week to be able to speak out with immunity.
Ouellette, 65, was arrested last Wednesday in connection with an investigation by the unit, known as UPAC, into an important information leak to the media last April.
In the interview, Ouellette denied being behind any leak and said he was set up and targeted because he was an obstacle to a bill that would see UPAC become an independent police entity.
He has not been charged.
Ouellette was linked to a UPAC probe called Machurer, which looked into suspected illegal financing within the Liberal party under former leader Jean Charest.
UPAC has been investigating a leak from within its own organization last April that revealed it had been looking at the comings and goings of ex-premier Charest and Liberal fundraiser Marc Bibeau up until 2016.
A news organization published emails dating from 2011 between Bibeau, Jean-Louis Dufresne, the former chief of staff to Premier Philippe Couillard, and Hugo d'Amour, a spokesperson for Charest. The emails showed the men discussed a contract to repair a Montreal-area bridge.
During his interview on the radio station, Ouellette replied, "No, absolutely not," when asked by host Bernard Drainville if he were the leak of the source.
Ouellette said authorities told him he was detained on suspicion of breach of trust and obstructing justice as well as conspiring to commit those two infractions.
He said he maintained his silence after his arrest.
"It's not to the people who arrested me that I'm beholden," Ouellette said. "I'm accountable to the population of Quebec and the citizens of Quebec."
Ouellette granted the interview after seeking refuge at Cogeco's Montreal headquarters with former Transport Quebec whistleblower Annie Trudel.
"The events of this week lead me to believe that UPAC will do everything it can to muzzle me — muzzle a parliamentarian — ... so I cannot give my version, or inform the population of all the intimidation tactics which are underway now in this same unit," he said.
Ouellette spoke out in the event he is rearrested before returning to the national assembly to speak Wednesday.
Last Thursday, the Liberals said Ouellette would step aside temporarily pending the outcome of proceedings involving the province's director of criminal and penal prosecutions.
A former anti-biker provincial police officer who has represented the Montreal-area riding of Chomedey since 2007, Ouellette also told Drainville that UPAC head Robert Lafreniere intimidated the provincial government into renewing his contract for another five years last April.
Ouellette, who presided over the legislature commission overseeing the UPAC bill, said Lafreniere had been less than forthcoming to elected officials about the unit's activities.
Ouellette said his arrest was a way to intimidate the other 124 members of the provincial legislature.
Trudel, meanwhile, told Le Journal de Montreal the reason Ouellette was arrested is that he was about go public with allegations involving Quebec's financial regulator.
Trudel alleged the Autorite des marches financiers was involved in collusion with UPAC and a firm of private consultants with regard to government contracts.
The regulator issued a statement denying the allegations.
"These allegations are not only untrue and completely gratuitous, but they undermine the reputation and integrity of all AMF staff," the Autorite said in the statement.
At a news conference Monday, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said the government is looking into how it can adopt an "accountability mechanism" to ensure UPAC is more transparent.
He said citizens need to have "full confidence" in their institutions.
The Canadian Press