NASSAU, Bahamas – A prominent resident of the Bahamas wanted on criminal charges in Canada said Thursday that he has late, stage-four cancer and is too ill to travel to face investigators over allegations of fraud in one of that country's priciest infrastructure projects.
Dr. Arthur Porter told The Associated Press during an interview in his home in an upscale, gated community that Canadian authorities should come to the Bahamas if they want to question him.
"I don't want them to think I would chicken out on anything," he said. "So if they want to come here, absolutely no problem."
Canada's anti-corruption police this week issued an arrest warrant for Porter, a physician and cancer specialist who faces six fraud-related charges stemming from the construction of the $1.3 billion McGill University Health Center in Montreal. Porter was director of the hospital when the alleged fraud occurred between 2008 and 2011. He left the job in 2011 amid allegations of mismanagement.
Porter is also the former head watchdog of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the country's spy agency. He was appointed to that post in 2008 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, eventually becoming chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee in 2010.
Anne Frederick Laurence, a spokeswoman for the Canadian police branch, said Wednesday that procedures to seek Porter's extradition were under way. "Canada and the Bahamas are talking," she said.
Appearing sickly and thinner than he once did, Porter said he is undergoing a second round of chemotherapy for lung cancer that has spread to his liver. During the interview, he coughed repeatedly and breathed with assistance from an oxygen tank beside his leather chair.
He said he would discuss with his lawyer whether to fight extradition to Canada once he has been formally served. Porter denies any wrongdoing.
In Canada, Harper's government is facing questions over its decision to appoint Porter to a committee that reviews some of Canada's most sensitive documents.
Interim Liberal Party leader Bob Rae told The Canadian Press that Porter would have been privy to highly sensitive information during his time on the committee, known as SIRC.
"All the members of SIRC have top security clearance," said Rae, once a member of SIRC himself. "They would routinely receive any and all information from CSIS (the spy agency) that is asked for."
Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the allegations that Porter is facing "do not have anything to do with his former responsibilities."
In the Bahamas, Porter is managing director of a private cancer treatment center in the islands' capital of Nassau. He has made the wealthy community of Old Fort Bay his permanent residence since moving to the archipelago off the eastern coast of Florida in 2011. Three Mercedes stood in his driveway Thursday.
Bahamian Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell has declined to comment on the case.
Porter is one of five men suspected in connection with the alleged hospital construction fraud in Montreal.
Another suspect, Jeremy Morris, is the administrator of a Bahamas-based investment company linked to the fraud allegation. Porter said he has never heard of Morris.
Another suspect, former McGill University Hospital Center executive Yanai Elbaz, was arrested Wednesday in Canada, formally charged with fraud and freed on $100,000 bail.
The circumstances under which Porter resigned from his position as former head watchdog of Canada's spy agency are unclear.
A Canadian newspaper, the National Post, says Porter had to resign after it reported that he had a "secret contract" with an international businessman to solicit $120 million in Russian government financing for the West African nation of Sierra Leone.
On Thursday, Porter said he is a citizen of that country and travels with a Sierra Leone passport. A Sierra Leone flag hung from a landing in his home. He made references to "other roles in other governments," including work with Sierra Leone.
In recent years, Porter had also been working with the government of Antigua and Barbuda to build a cancer treatment center in that eastern Caribbean nation.
Associated Press writer Jeff Todd reported in Nassau and David McFadden reported from Kingston, Jamaica.