By Robert BenzieQueen’s Park Bureau Chief
Thu., Sept. 30, 2021timer3 min. read
updateArticle was updated 5 hrs ago
Ontario Provincial Police have charged a fourth person in connection with the alleged $11 million theft of provincial COVID-19 relief funds.
In a move suggesting an expansion of the year-long criminal probe of the pandemic fraud, OPP laid two charges against Manish Gambhir, 41, a Brampton computer specialist.
Gambhir was charged Tuesday with possession of an identity document related — or purported to relate — to another person and with possession of stolen property.
OPP Detective Staff Sgt. Sean Chatland, who is leading the seven-member team probing the case, said the size and scope of the investigation is “significantly more complex” than first identified.
“The investigative team has worked extremely hard to hold those responsible to account,” Chatland said Thursday.
Gambhir, who released from custody and will appear in court on Nov. 10, was not immediately available for comment.
The latest charges follow those laid earlier this month against married couple Sanjay and Shalini Madan and their associate Vidhan Singh, all of Toronto.
Police charged Sanjay Madan, with two counts of fraud and two counts of breach of trust. He and spouse, Shalini Madan, were also charged with possession of stolen property and laundering the proceeds of crime.
Singh was charged with money laundering, fraud, and possession of stolen property.
Both Madans were fired last year as information technology managers at Queen’s Park.
Singh and the Madans — as well as their adult sons, Chinmaya and Ujjawal Madan, who do not face charges in the criminal case — have been in civil court since last fall over the alleged theft of $11 million in COVID-19 relief funds.
A publication ban protects the details of the criminal case.
But in separate Ontario Superior Court civil filings, the province alleges that “some or all of” the Madans and Singh funneled millions to thousands of accounts at TD, Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank of Canada, Tangerine, and India’s ICICI Bank in spring 2020.
Neither the criminal or civil allegations against the Madans and Singh have been proven in court.
Gambhir’s name has not surfaced in the civil case.
Sanjay Madan was fired 11 months ago as the $176,608-a-year tech leader on the Ministry of Education’s Support for Families initiative.
That program gave Ontario parents $200 per child under age 12 and $250 per child and youth under 21 with special needs to help woth online educational expenses early in the pandemic.
In civil court testimony, which may not be used in the criminal case if it violates Charter-protected rights against self-incrimination, Sanjay Madan admitted he “relaxed” computer security so additional payouts could be made to the same bank accounts.
Under oath on Jan. 8, he testified it was “a free-flowing program” and “there were a lot of loopholes.”
“I thought there may be an opportunity to take the funds out … it looked like easy money for me,” the ex-bureaucrat said.
Spouse Shalini Madan was terminated last fall from her $132,513-a-year Ministry of Government and Consumer Services IT manager job.
She’s denied any involvement in the alleged $11 million theft and is suing Queen’s Park for wrongful dismissal.
A government court injunction has frozen $28 million in Madan family assets in Canada and India.
That includes $12.4 million in Indian bank accounts, an $8-million Waterloo apartment complex, a seven-bedroom house in North York valued at $2.57 million, and six Toronto condominiums valued at about $3 million.
In the civil case, Crown lawyers allege Sanjay Madan was the “ringleader” of a sophisticated scheme that had allegedly stolen $30 million over the decade preceding the pandemic.
“It’s not just the fraud with respect to the Support for Families program, but also kickbacks with respect to the engagement of fee-for-services consultants,” the province’s lawyer Christopher Wayland told civil court in August.
Wayland alleged in court that Sanjay Madan and Vidhan Singh ran a consulting business that hired computer contractors and paid “secret commissions” to favoured vendors.
Singh has denied that allegation.
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