(Quebec) The Legault government says it is concerned about the interest of “non-compliant” financial groups who would like to take advantage of Quebec’s key position in the battery industry to enrich themselves, as La Presse revealed on Thursday.
“Clearly, we want to protect our natural resources, especially critical minerals, from being in hands that are not in conformity or not aligned with the interests of Quebec,” said the Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon. “We’re doing a lot of work in that direction with the federal government as well, there are very in-depth ways to help us,” he added.
La Presse reported Thursday that Quebec’s enviable position in the creation of a North American battery industry is of interest to a financial group linked to money laundering and transnational organized crime. Investissement Québec blocked a sophisticated seduction campaign aimed at seducing political figures and buying a strategic mine in Abitibi with its support.
It has been revealed that businessmen involved in the takeover of the lithium mine at La Corne were even able to meet Minister Fitzgibbon to plead their case.
“I met people, like I meet a lot of people, but there is a very diligent process that takes place in government. So, with Investissement Québec and the federal government, people quickly discovered that there were perhaps some problematic things. As a result, there was never a follow-up to the meetings that took place with this group,” said Mr. Fitzgibbon.
The group called Lithium 360 brought together Quebec and American business people, with the support of a European financing company called Bandenia. It even managed to get registered with three government agencies tasked with keeping bandits out of the financial industry: Revenu Québec, the Office de la protection du consommateur, and the Financial Operations and Declarations Analysis Center of the Canada (FINTRAC), reported La Presse.
How is it that Revenu Québec, which is mandated by the Government of Quebec to conduct a security investigation into the background of any owner of a money-services business, has granted six activity permits to money-services businesses in the Bandenia network? Finance Minister, responsible for Revenu Québec, Eric Girard would not comment on La Presse’s investigation.
“I think there are mechanisms in place,” Minister Fitzgibbon responded. “Here, fortunately, the work was done up front, then there was no loss of money, there was no loss of resources there. I think it’s safe to say we’re comfortable with the process that was followed,” he said.
Investissement Québec had also warned Minister Fitzgibbon when a team of experts within the government’s financial arm had begun to sniff out the presence of undesirable players behind Lithium 360. Since critical minerals are a key sector for Quebec, Investissement Québec closely monitors potential investors.
The pedigree of the partners is x-rayed, sometimes with the help of specialized databases or Investissement Québec offices abroad. The Crown corporation can even require investors to travel to Quebec in person.