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Three men convicted in Quebec in long-running Cinar case

MONTREAL – The founder of animation company Cinar and two former asset management executives were convicted Thursday on most of the charges they faced in a $120-million fraud case dating back more than 15 years.

The jury reached guilty verdicts against Ronald Weinberg, John Xanthoudakis and Lino Matteo following a trial that began in May 2014.

The three men were charged with transferring funds from Cinar to the Bahamas nearly 20 years ago.

Crown prosecutor Matthew Ferguson said he was pleased with the verdict.

“This proves that, despite the complexity of the evidence, it’s still possible to have jury trials in fraud cases,” he said.

“Although the facts seemed very complex, in the circumstances it was evidence that was comprehensible, that was easy to understand and I believe the jury reached the right verdict.”

Weinberg and his late wife, Micheline Charest, co-founded the Cinar animation company, which created popular children’s shows such as “Arthur” and “Caillou.” Charest died in 2004 after a lack of oxygen to the brain following six hours of facial and breast surgery at a Montreal clinic.

Weinberg was found guilty of nine of the 16 charges against him, including fraud and using false documents and false prospectus.

Matteo, who was president of the Mount Real investment firm, was aquitted on two charges but convicted of nine others, including fraud, using false documents and forgery.

Xanthoudakis, the former head of Norshield Financial Group Inc., was convicted on 17 charges.

The three men will remain behind bars pending sentencing arguments Monday.

Lawyers for the defendants have not said whether they will appeal the verdict.

Weinberg’s lawyer said she plans to prepare for the sentencing arguments.

“He was found guilty of certain counts but was still acquitted on seven others,” Annie Emond said outside the courthouse, adding she was nevertheless disappointed by the result.

The fraud occurred between August 1998 and March 2000.

The men were arrested in 2011 following a lengthy provincial police probe that alleged the men orchestrated elaborate and large-scale fraud using money from Montreal-based Cinar.

A fourth accused, ex-Cinar senior executive Hasanain Panju, previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison. He testified for the Crown at the trial.

Janet Watson, who speaks for the alleged victims in a separate trial involving Matteo and Mount Real, said she was “overjoyed” by the result.

“I have my faith restored in the justice system,” she said. “It’s been such a long wait.”

Watson, who lost her retirement savings when Quebec’s securities regulator shut down Mount Real in 2005, said the verdict is encouraging to victims.

“These fraudsters in Canada need to realize they can’t get away with this,” she said.