OTTAWA – An 11th hour constitutional challenge delayed sentencing proceedings for an Iroquois-based developer who pleaded guilty to international fraud charges last year.
Edouard Bonamie, 75, entered guilty pleas to four charges in June 2022 involving an international yacht-fraud scheme valued by the Crown Attorney’s office at approximately $1.4 million Canadian.
At the beginning of the April 21 sentencing hearing at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa, Bonamie’s defence attorney, Eric Granger, filed a constitutional challenge to the minimum sentencing requirements to the Criminal Code, Section 380 (1.1). That section was amended by the federal government in 2011 to impose a minimum two year sentence for fraud convictions valued at over $1 million.
Granger argued that the $997,000 (US dollars) fraud his client has pleaded guilty to, once converted to Canadian currency, requires the minimum sentencing be applied. He said that Bonamie is selling properties to assist paying restitution to the three victims in the United States and that the minimum sentence should not apply given the restitution being paid.
Crown Attorney Caroline Thibault said that she “vigorously opposed” the motion as the Crown was ready to proceed with the sentencing. She also said that no restitution has been paid to date. Thibault added that Bonamie pleaded guilty last June.
Saying that the motion filed was “no surprise,” Thibault continued that Bonamie’s criminal record for fraud – beginning in 1972 – was well-established.
“In terms of sentences, he is so far from the conditional minimum sentence requirements,” she argued, calling the constitutional challenge “baseless.”
The maximum sentence for fraud is 14 years in prison. Bonamie’s longest sentence to date for a fraud conviction is seven years, six months, which was given in 1996.
Thibault said the Crown was ready to proceed with sentencing.
All three American victims were in court via Zoom and victim impact statements had been filed in advance of Friday’s proceedings.
Crown and defence argued for approximately 20 minutes about whether Justice Ann Alder was able to dismiss a constitutional challenge without a hearing on the motion.
After a further 20-minute recess, Justice Alder said that she could not rule against a potential constitutional challenge motion without further study of case law.
Bonamie will next appear at the Elgin Street Courthouse May 10 to determine if the constitutional challenge will be heard, and when sentencing will continue.
Bonamie was charged by the Ottawa Police Service in December 2021 after an international investigation involving the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Ontario Provincial Police. At that time, police said he is involved with the South Dundas Waterfront Development Corporation, based in Iroquois.
Bonamie originally faced eight charges, which was increased to 11 charges in May 2022, prior to his plea deal with the Crown.
He pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of uttering forged documents.
Bonamie has been released on bail since last summer. Terms of that release are subject to a publication ban.