Former Ontario bureaucrats charged in alleged $11M COVID-19 fraud are headed back to court

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The Ontario bureaucrats fired after the alleged theft of $11 million in provincial COVID-19 relief funds are headed back to court this week as criminal proceedings continue.

Sanjay and Shalini Madan, a married Toronto couple terminated from the public service in 2020 after the alleged fraud, will be in long trial assignment court on Wednesday.

They were charged last September by the Ontario Provincial Police, but their criminal trial might not begin in earnest until September 2023.

Police charged Sanjay Madan with two counts of fraud and two counts of breach of trust. He and Shalini Madan were also charged with laundering the proceeds of crime and possession of stolen property.

Two other men have also been charged in the case.

Toronto’s Vidhan Singh was charged with money laundering, fraud and possession of stolen property. Manish Gambhir of Brampton was charged with possession of stolen property and possession of an identity document related — or purported to relate — to another person.

Chris Sewrattan, Sanjay Madan’s defence lawyer, declined to comment Monday.

In separate Ontario Superior Court filings, the province alleges that “some or all of” the Madans, their adult sons, Chinmaya and Ujjawal, and Singh, funneled millions to thousands of TD, Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank of Canada, Tangerine, and India’s ICICI bank accounts in spring 2020.

Chinmaya and Ujjawal do not face any criminal charges, but the parallel civil court case is ongoing.

The province’s allegations against the Madans and Singh have not been proven in civil court.

The criminal charges have also not been proven in court.

Sanjay Madan was fired in November 2020 from a $176,608-a-year job as the Ministry of Education’s information technology leader on the Support for Families program.

That pandemic fund — later enriched and renamed the Ontario COVID-19 Child Benefit before being wound down a year ago — gave parents $200 per child under age 12 and $250 per child and youth under 21 with special needs to offset online educational expenses.

In civil court testimony, which may not be used against him in the criminal action if it violates his charter-protected rights against self-incrimination, Sanjay Madan said he “relaxed” computer security so more payouts could be made to the same bank accounts.

Under oath in January 2021, he said Support for Families was “a free-flowing program.”

“There were a lot of possible applications coming in because people … discovered that there were a lot of loopholes,” Sanjay Madan told the civil court.

“I thought there may be an opportunity to take the funds out … it looked like easy money for me.”

Shalini Madan, who was terminated from her $132,513-a-year job as a Ministry of Government and Consumer Services computer specialist, is suing the province for wrongful dismissal and seeking more than $5 million in damages.

Chinmaya and Ujjawal Madan, who voluntarily resigned from lower-level computer jobs at Queen’s Park two years ago, are each suing the government for $1 million, citing “psychological” harm by being named in the civil suit.

A government court injunction, sought during the civil case, has frozen $28 million in Madan family assets in Canada and India.

That includes $12.4 million in cash 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 worth about $3 million.

In August 2020, Sanjay Madan, who owns two villas in Hyderabad, flew to India and bought and sold more than $500,000 in gold.

But he told the civil court he “suffered a loss” in the sale that summer as he “was in a rush to come back to Canada because (the) OPP was knocking (on) my doors.”

Investigators probing the civil case found he had obtained a Panamanian driver’s licence and a permanent resident’s card and registered a company in Panama, a tax haven that does not have an extradition treaty with Canada.

Sanjay Madan testified in civil court in 2021 that his Panamanian residency had lapsed because he hadn’t been to the country in more than a year.

In the civil case, the province alleges he was the “ringleader” of an elaborate scheme that allegedly stole an additional $30 million dating back to 2010.

“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,” Crown lawyer Christopher Wayland said last year in the civil matter.

The government alleges Sanjay Madan and Singh operated a consulting business scheme that hired computer contractors and paid “secret commissions” to preferred vendors.

Singh has denied that allegation.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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