A police investigation has been launched that could result in criminal charges involving one or more witnesses scheduled to testify at the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry.

Adjourning the inquiry at 10:05 a.m. this past Monday, just minutes after it opened, commissioner Madam Justice Denise

Bellamy said counsel involved in the inquiry investigation had uncovered new information late last week that could be deemed as “”evidence of possible criminal conduct”” which prompted a call to the Ontario Provincial Police.

“”I want to ensure that the interest of those individuals, whose right to a fair trial, should it come to that, are not detrimentally affected by the inquiry process. Second, at this juncture I do not believe the inquiry should impede or otherwise interfere with the early stages of a criminal investigation,”” Bellamy said.

To date about 100 witnesses have been interviewed by the inquiry commission, with 35 were scheduled to testify, including Toronto mayor Mel Lastman who was to be the first to appear at the inquiry.

But Lastman didn’t even have a chance to smile for the first photo op. His only appearance was as he hustled to escape reporters covering the inquiry at the East York Civic Centre.

Council voted last winter to go ahead with a public, independent inquiry with an eye to determining why the City paid more than $85 million to Mississauga leasing company MFP Financial Services for computers and software contracts originally priced at $43 million. It will also examine why the city acquired 10,000 Oracle Corp. database enterprise software licences — a number a city auditor report says is a “”fraction”” of what it actually needed.

City audit reports indicate some of the leasing deals escalated in price when interest rates first negotiated by the city went up, and lease terms were extended beyond what had originally be agreed to by council.

Although the investigation has been going on since May, it was only late last week the new information came to light.

“”In my view, the public interest required this be done,”” Bellamy said.

The OPP is expected to provide Bellamy with a status report of their investigation within two weeks, when she will reassess whether the inquiry should be delayed any further.

For more on this story pick up CDN – Computer Dealer News’s Oct. 18 edition.

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