Former Montreal police investigator Benoit Roberge in a file photo from the book The Road to Hell; How the Biker Gangs Are Conquering Canada by Julian Sher and William Marsden. The Surete de Quebec announced Oct. 7 that Roberge has been arrested. (Photo courtesy of William Marsden)
MONTREAL — A recently retired Montreal police officer who had access to the highest levels of intelligence on gangs like the Hells Angels appeared in court Monday to face allegations he leaked information to the biker gang in exchange for money.
Sûreté du Québec Inspector Michel Forget announced the arrest of Benoît Roberge during a press conference held at SQ headquarters Monday morning. The allegations put forward by Forget are both stunning and troublesome because, for at least a dozen years, Roberge investigated the biker gang and was a top investigator with the regional integrated squad based in Montreal. The unit is composed of investigators from different police forces and is designed specifically to investigate biker gangs.
The indictment filed in the case lists four charges filed against Roberge and alleges he committed the crimes between January 1, 2010, and Oct. 6 of this year. One charge alleges he obstructed justice for the "profit of a criminal organization," a gangsterism charge. The alleged offences were carried out in Saint Denis de Brompton, a town in the Eastern Townships near Sherbrooke.
He is also charged with providing information that could affect "the course of justice," participating or contributing to a criminal act for a criminal organization and breach of trust.
Roberge made a brief appearance before a Quebec Court judge who ordered that he remain detained for a bail hearing on Thursday.
Through his lawyer, he reserved the right to suspend a reading of the charges and therefore did not enter a plea.
The allegations are stunning because Roberge's work as an investigator, especially during Operation Springtime 2001, caused serious damage to the Hells Angels — in particular its now-defunct Nomads chapter headed by Maurice (Mom) Boucher and based in Montreal.
Until he retired in August, Roberge was frequently in attendance at the Gouin couthouse for dates related to Operation SharQc, an investigation that produced the arrests of almost every member of the Hells Angels in Quebec in 2009.
Recently, "certain worrisome elements were detected relative to investigations involving organized crime," Forget said. "These irregularities set off an investigation to find out if members of organized crime were able to obtain information on ongoing investigations. This situation has led us today to announce the arrest of Mr. Benoit Roberge, an ex-police officer with the Montreal police who was with the regional integrated squad in Montreal dedicated to tackling organized crime.
"The investigation demonstrated that he transmitted information targeting organized crime in return for a sum of money. This situation is taken very seriously and all resources available were put in place to shine light on the circumstance surrounding this leak of information to organized crime."
Forget said Roberge was taken into custody Saturday somewhere on the South Shore in the company of an organized crime figure. He did not identify who the other person was, but said the other man was not arrested. Forget also said that members of a heavily armed tactical squad carried out the arrest and that Roberge appeared before a judge Sunday night in an unusual court proceeding held via video conference.
"The investigation is ongoing. As it is known, Mr. Roberge was well known in the police milieu. There were a lot of meetings held (as part of the investigation) but as I speak we don't foresee other arrests being made," Forget said.
No police force in Quebec can tolerate such a leak of information, he said.
"We have reached a point in Quebec, I would say, where we have destabilized the structures of organized crime groups to the point where they would take any means to ruin our investigations," Forget said.
The investigation into Roberge should determine how long he allegedly served as a leak to the Hells Angels, Forget added.
"But do we suspect for all of his career? We are not there yet," he said. "This does not reflect in any way on the [dedication] of different men and women who are dedicated to [investigating] organized crime and different organized crime investigations."
As part of his duties with the regional integrated squad, Roberge often worked with informants who provided information on the Hells Angels. One of those informants, Stephane Faucher, alleged during a Hells Angels megatrial related to Operation Springtime 2001, that Roberge had tricked him into turning on the Hells Angels. Faucher alleged at the time that he became an informant because of "a frameup" orchestrated by Roberge and another officer.
Roberge also worked as a handler for another informant, Dany Kane, a now-deceased member of the Rockers, a Hells Angels puppet gang, who helped police infiltrate the Hells Angels for several years during the Operation Springtime 2001 investigation.
According to a statement issued by Revenue Quebec, Roberge was working for them since March 11 and was relieved of his duties following his arrest. The statement says Roberge was in charge of Revenue Quebec's information division and that "Revenue Quebec is collaborating fully with the police forces responsible for the ongoing investigation."
According to various sources, at the time of his arrest the retired investigator was in a relationship with a prosecutor who is involved in a high-profile case involving members of the Hells Angels who were arrested several months ago.
René Verret, a spokesperson for the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales, said the prosecutor in question is on vacation and will return next week. Verret said no decisions have yet been made on whether the procecutor's responsibilities will change when she returns, including her access to information concerning cases involving the Hells Angels.
"We took measures to protect certain information" during the investigation into Roberge, Verret said. During the SQ's press conference, Forget made no mention of whether a prosecutor was investigated at the same time as Roberge.