Corruption Charges Laid in $300 Million St. Michael's Hospital Renovation Project

Two former executives, John Aquino of Bondfield Construction Co. Ltd. and Vas Georgiou of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, have been charged with fraud over $5,000 as part of a prolonged investigation into corruption at the healthcare facility. Both men surrendered themselves to the Toronto police on Tuesday and were later released. The charges against them include one count of paying or accepting secret commissions and one count of committing fraud on the government. The charges resulted from an investigation into the $300 million renovation project of the St. Michael's Hospital. The Ontario Serious Fraud Office (SFO) made the arrests and laid the charges. According to the OPP statement, the SFO investigation found evidence of fraud through the offering or receipt of secret commissions in the awarding of the contract in 2015. Other police forces involved in the investigation were the Barrie Police Service, York Regional Police, Peel Regional Police, Durham Regional Police, and the RCMP.

The allegations against the two men date back to 2015, when Bondfield won the contract to redevelop the hospital. While Georgiou was an evaluator on the bid for the project, he failed to disclose his involvement in two businesses owned by Aquino. The hospital terminated Georgiou's employment after discovering these undisclosed conflicts. Since then, the project has fallen into disarray, and Bondfield filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019. Zurich Insurance Co. Ltd., Bondfield's multinational insurer, sued Georgiou, Aquino, and Unity Health Toronto, the hospital network that includes St. Michael's, citing alleged collusion. Bondfield also borrowed from a consortium of banks led by the Bank of Montreal to finance the project. The consortium claims it is out $230 million and has launched a lawsuit against Unity Health and Infrastructure Ontario, alleging both organizations failed to keep the procurement from becoming "tainted and compromised."

The construction project at St. Michael's Hospital remains incomplete, despite two phases being scheduled to be finished by 2019. Work continues on the project, including the demolition of the Shuter Wing. Unity Health fully cooperated with the police investigation. Aquino and Georgiou are set to appear in court in Toronto on March 28.


Published: March 10, 2023

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