MONTREAL - A hockey celebrity-turned-politician, running in an upcoming federal byelection for the Green party, has confirmed that he is facing fraud charges.
Georges Laraque has told The Canadian Press that he's innocent of the alleged crimes and intends to remain a candidate in an upcoming Montreal byelection.
He says his party is aware of the allegations, which stem from a previously reported dispute with a former business partner, and has been supportive.
Laraque confirmed a report by the French-language sports network RDS that the province's director of criminal and penal prosecutions has recommended charges following an investigation by Longueuil municipal police.
Earlier this year, it was publicly reported that the police raided his home in search of documents related to the Super-Glide synthetic ice venture.
Laraque confirmed in an interview Wednesday night that the criminal charges are related to two transactions worth a total of $120,000. He said the accusations stem from a dispute with engineer Marc Filion, who co-founded the company with him in 2009.
"I find it bizarre to hear that I'm being accused of fraud by an associate who didn't put a single penny into the company," Laraque told The Canadian Press.
He has a court appearance scheduled for Nov. 19.
In the meantime, he plans to continue door-knocking in Montreal's Bourassa riding. The vegan animal-rights activist is vying to become the country's second Green MP, after leader Elizabeth May, when a byelection is called there.
He conceded, however, that the criminal allegations will make his task more difficult.
"It's obviously not good and I'll have to spend a lot of time offering explanations, to reassure people. I'll have to explain that this isn't the Charbonneau commission and this has nothing to do with the Mafia," Laraque said.
But he added that he's benefiting from the support of his party, for which he holds a formal role as deputy leader.
"They've seen my defence and have seen the witnesses defending me. They were reassured to see that even if I have to go to court, I'll get through this."
In the past, May has defended Laraque but said she'd ask him to step aside as deputy leader for the duration of any investigation if he were the focus of the police probe.
Laraque told The Canadian Press he's considering a defamation suit against his rival in the affair and, as for his own case, he's eager to get started.
"I want it to begin, because this thing's been dragging on for two years. I have nothing to hide."
Before his career as an activist and politician, the 36-year-old Laraque played for four NHL teams between 1997 and 2010 and was best-known for his fighting skills.