Former NBCC troubleshooter must serve three months of house arrest, avoid alcohol

McDowell guilty of two cheque fraud charges

By CHRIS WINDEYER

Allan McDowell, the former acting chief executive of the troubled Nunavut Business Credit Corporation, was convicted of two counts of fraud in Arviat Feb. 1.

McDowell, 41, was found guilty of cashing two cheques belonging to his old employer, Eskimo Point Lumber of Arviat.

Two other charges of theft under $5,000 were thrown out.

"They [the theft charges] were weak," said Mark Rowan, McDowell's lawyer. "The Crown couldn't prove their case and Mr. McDowell provided reasonable explanations."

McDowell was accused of stealing cheques and a laptop.

But Rowan said witness testimony revealed anyone at Eskimo Point Lumber could have taken the cheques and it was never proven the laptop wasn't given to McDowell.

Rowan said McDowell has until early March to decide whether he'll appeal the convictions.

McDowell was sentenced to three months house arrest and ordered to repay his old employer nearly $2,200.

The house arrest must be served in either Arviat or Cape Dorset, according to court documents. Rowan said he didn't know where McDowell would serve his sentence. McDowell must also perform 40 hours of community service and stay away from alcohol.

What was to have been a two-day trial became a week-long event. Bad weather delayed proceedings, and a faulty heating system in Arviat's community hall had court staff, lawyers and spectators dressed in parkas indoors as the temperature barely reached above zero, Rowan said.

Crown prosecutor Susanne Boucher wasn't available for comment.

The charges came to light in December, shortly after McDowell was chosen to serve as the acting CEO of the NBCC.

He was to have helped turn around an organization left reeling by a damning report from Auditor General Sheila Fraser, which revealed widespread disorganization and mismanagement at the credit agency.

He was later put on paid leave.

In a December interview, McDowell said he was innocent. He also worried the charges would undermine his efforts to turn around the NBCC.

"Now the perception will be the work that I've done here to fix everything at NBCC will be thrown out," he said at the time.

The charges were first filed in March 2006, a month before he was first hired as a comptroller by the agency. McDowell has said he couldn't remember if the NBCC asked him about any criminal charges before he got the job.

On Tuesday, Peter Ma, the deputy finance minister and acting NBCC CEO, didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

But during a hearing on the NBCC fiasco held Tuesday by the government operations committee, chair Hunter Tootoo said members would seek an update on McDowell's job status from "the Government of Nunavut's lead witness."

On Feb. 6, just as Nunatsiaq News went to press, the GN announced that McDowell resigned from the NBCC as of Feb. 5.

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