‘Disaster follows him around’: Montreal lawyer named in lawsuit over mysterious scanner

Whatever his title, Bouchard’s role was clear: He was to travel extensively and use his overseas contacts to bring clients and investment to the company. From late 2013 until a few weeks ago, he was paid $25,000 every month, plus expenses.

According to a complaint filed March 2, 2016, in Tennessee Chancery Court, Bouchard delivered little more than “half-measures, excuses and ephemera.” The complaint, filed by a Container Scan director and investor named Daniel Pool, also accuses Bouchard of defrauding the company and trying to “steal” its marketing rights to the container scanning system.

He “knowingly used fraudulent documents to attempt to secure business opportunities with foreign officials,” read the allegations, which have not been proven in court and which Bouchard denies.

 

Maybe it really is a “world-changing technology” capable of foiling terrorists. Perhaps it really is attracting attention — and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars — from African governments and Saudi royalty, as some people behind the private company claim.

Based in Memphis, Tenn., Container Scan Holdings LLC has the marketing rights to a system it says can scan large shipping containers for explosives and other dangerous substances, in seconds. A scanning device of unmatched sophistication and efficiency, it could improve security at sea and land ports — or so goes the pitch.

 

Maybe it’s just hype. Container Scan was founded and managed behind the scenes by a disbarred Memphis lawyer sent to federal prison for his role in an unrelated US$10-million Ponzi scheme. Among the company’s biggest investors and enthusiasts is a hair-transplant doctor from Arkansas, who claims to be tight with Saudi Arabia’s royal family “at the top.”

 

Simon Main / AFP, Getty ImagesInvestors believe the scanner uses ‘world-changing’ technology’

 

And until very recently — before the lawsuits and bitter accusations started flying — the company’s chief promoter and consultant was Montreal lawyer Jacques Bouchard Jr.

 

Notorious in Canadian legal circles for his relationships with Third-World despots and former prime minister Jean Chrétien, Bouchard first made headlines five years ago when the National Post revealed he had signed a contract on behalf of a Montreal lobbyist, promising to deliver “at least” a dozen Russian attack helicopters to war-torn Central African Republic.

 

According to insiders, that contributed to a crisis of confidence at prestigious law firm Heenan Blaikie, where Bouchard and Chrétien worked together for several years. Two years ago, Bouchard said he was given formal approval by senior partners at the firm to work on “opportunities with the Russian Federation and some African countries,” and that he simply “followed their instructions.” The 500-lawyer firm with offices across Canada dissolved in 2014 amidst acrimony and financial hardship.

 

Chrétien moved to a new firm, while Bouchard had already joined forces with obscure and secretive Container Scan, where he served as a contracted “consultant in international development.” Sometimes — in purported contracts and in letters to investors, for example — he described himself as the company’s chief executive officer.

 

Whatever his title, Bouchard’s role was clear: He was to travel extensively and use his overseas contacts to bring clients and investment to the company. From late 2013 until a few weeks ago, he was paid $25,000 every month, plus expenses.

According to a complaint filed March 2, 2016, in Tennessee Chancery Court, Bouchard delivered little more than “half-measures, excuses and ephemera.” The complaint, filed by a Container Scan director and investor named Daniel Pool, also accuses Bouchard of defrauding the company and trying to “steal” its marketing rights to the container scanning system.

 

He “knowingly used fraudulent documents to attempt to secure business opportunities with foreign officials,” read the allegations, which have not been proven in court and which Bouchard denies.

 

But no one disputes this: five months ago, before the lawsuit and turmoil, Bouchard welcomed an illustrious new person to the company’s “advisory board” — former Heenan Blaikie colleague Pierre Marc Johnson.

 

A former Parti Québécois leader, Johnson briefly served as Quebec premier in 1985. He currently acts as chief negotiator for the government of Quebec for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union.

 

“Mr. Johnson’s vast knowledge and experience will be great assets to Container Scan and we are honoured to have him on board,” Bouchard gushed in a letter sent to investors in December. Johnson does not have a financial stake in the company.

 

Container Scan’s advisory board includes a number of other luminaries, among them J.C. Watts, a former Canadian Football League quarterback and U.S. congressman. According to company sources, Watts considered an offer to become Container Scan’s president last year, but declined after a meeting in Memphis went badly.

 

Bouchard was not happy with the prospect of having to report to Watts and seeing company control shift to Watts and Pool, sources claim. They point to emails Bouchard allegedly sent to other company insiders, including its founder, Louis Hamric.  “I told you that I do not want to have to answer to them,” reads an email Bouchard allegedly wrote to Hamric in November. The email was shared with company investors at a meeting held last month in Memphis.  

James Lee Witt, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is another Container Scan advisory board member. Retired U.S. Army general and 2004 Democratic Party presidential nomination candidate Wesley Clark was also an adviser until he resigned from the board sometime last year.  Through a spokesman in Washington, Clark would not explain why or when he resigned.  Neither Clark, Witt, nor Watts agreed to be interviewed for this story.  

In February, Bouchard sent another cheery note to investors, “a status report” claiming there were “signed contracts” with the governments of Vietnam and Somalia. The deals would bring tens of millions of dollars to the company, he promised. “Immediate opportunities” also existed in the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Ghana, Bouchard wrote.

All that was needed to complete the deals and get the money flowing was delivery of Container Scan’s vaunted scanning machines, he added.

But there weren’t any machines to send clients then, and there aren’t any now. There’s just a single scanner prototype, about the size of two small cars. It’s locked inside a rural Tennessee “laboratory” along with a computer and a printer that spits out graphs and charts for the benefit of potential new investors who come for scanning demonstrations.

It might look impressive to some, says one insider. The prototype has apparently identified certain contraband or hazardous materials. “But,” the same source added, “I can’t tell you if it was a working machine.”

Bouchard stopped working for Container Scan several weeks ago, around the time Pool’s complaint against him and several co-defendants was filed in Tennessee court. He filed a response to the complaint in late March, denying every allegation.

In a counterclaim, Bouchard alleges Pool and other two others defamed him, causing him “to suffer the loss of his good name and reputation and goodwill.” He notes he has “for many years developed his relationships with foreign heads of state and previously worked alongside former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.”

Tony Caldwell / QMI AgencyFormer Canadian Prime Minister Jean in 2010.

References to Bouchard’s relationship with Chrétien were heard frequently at company meetings, Container Scan insiders and investors recall. “Bouchard’s involvement with Chrétien was a good deal of his resumé,” says one individual who is not involved or named in any of the court filings. “At first we were elated (to have Bouchard on the payroll). We were feeling like we were going to sit back and wait for the money to roll in.”

 

Instead, money went out the door. Millions of dollars raised from private investors were spent attempting to attract business; by the start of 2016, the company was cash-strapped, according to insiders. People started looking more closely at their jet-setting international consultant, and at his past.

 

Despite Bouchard’s efforts to clean up his reputation — he hired Internet consulting companies for their online reputation-management services in 2014 and 2015, and sent the bills to Container Scan — he couldn’t erase everything. “Disaster,” says one investor, “seems to follow him.”

 

In 2012, a year after resigning from Heenan Blaikie, Bouchard pleaded guilty before Quebec’s law society to to seven disciplinary infractions, on matters related to his work at another Montreal-based law firm.

 

He then became associated with something called the World Sports Alliance (WSA), a curious outfit that described itself as a “public-private partnership in support of United Nations Millennium Goals.” It was led by Alain Lemieux, an artificial-turf impresario from Sherbrooke, Que., who was described in WSA literature as “His Excellency Ambassador.”

 

The WSA had no official UN affiliation, and Lemieux was not an ambassador. But he had ambitions in Africa, and engaged Bouchard to help WSA pursue business opportunities on the continent, including diamond and nickel mining.

 

Before Bouchard and Lemieux’s relationship soured in 2013, they met with Container Scan to discuss a possible business arrangement. Apparently, Bouchard liked what he saw in Memphis. He walked away from the WSA and signed on with the American company.

 

Container Scan’s founder, Hamric, was a colourful southern gentleman who liked to surround himself with antiquities, fine furnishings and interesting people. By the time Bouchard met him, Hamric was no longer practising law; he had just spent several years in federal prison for wire fraud and money laundering for his role in a crooked investment scheme that defrauded 97 investors. 

 

Insiders say it was widely known that Hamric “ran the show” at Container Scan. His criminal history and disbarment weren’t big secrets, either. “Memphis is a small city, and everyone knew about Louis,” says one investor. Yet because of his crimes, Hamric chose to remain in the background; he was a company director, but he did not have an executive position with the company.

 

National Post

bhutchinson@nationalpost.com

 
 

Sourced through Scoop.it from: news.nationalpost.com

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