APTN National News
A former First Nation chief says he was offered a “financial contribution” by the CEO of a Winnipeg financial firm to retract a statement made in the media about receiving an alleged $100,000 proposed incentive to sign onto a business deal.
Morris Shannacappo, the former chief of Rolling River First Nation, said USAND Group CEO Sean McCoshen told him he would “make it worth your while” if he retracted an on-the-record statement to APTN National News about a $100,000 offer to seal a deal between his community and USAND.
USAND is currently under an ongoing Indigenous Affairs investigation triggered by allegations the firm used cash incentives to seal business deals with First Nation chiefs, according to a statement from the department issued Tuesday.
An internal USAND document obtained by APTN revealed the firm considered using “kickbacks” as a tool in securing deals with potential First Nation clients.
USAND, a firm that provides services ranging from loan arrangements to bond offerings, is threatening to sue APTN over two stories published in 2016 about the allegations and McCoshen’s links to the failed creation of a “sovereign tax immunity” fund targeting First Nation dollars that was to be based in the Cayman Islands.
USAND and McCoshen denied all allegations of impropriety.
McCoshen did not return repeated requests for comment made to his personal cell phone, company telephone and USAND email.
USAND has claimed Shannacappo retracted a statement made to APTN that he was offered $100,000 by McCoshen to sign onto a deal that would see USAND arrange a multi-million dollar loan for his community with the Bank of Montreal.
“The boys, they called me out of the meeting after the lunchbreak when everything was good and presumed to go ahead with this company, USAND,” said Shannacappo, during an interview with APTN in January 2016. “And Sean (McCoshen), he offered me $100,000…If you sign on we are going to reward you $100,000.”
Shannacappo now says McCoshen suggested he write a letter retracting his statement to APTN in exchange for an undetermined financial incentive. Shannacappo said he wrote and signed the letter which was delivered to USAND.
“I retracted everything because they had spoken to me with a promise they were going to make things right, what is that?” said Shannacappo. “They said, ‘We’ll make things right for you, you will be comfortable but get things out of the news for us right now…retract it and we’ll make it worth your while.’”
Shannacappo said McCoshen never followed through with his offer after obtaining the letter with the retraction.
“After I left the chief position I wanted to go into business, a restaurant,” said Shannacappo. “I called them, they wouldn’t answer any of my calls.”
Then, a third party provided Shannacappo with a message from McCoshen about Shannacappo.
“Lol. This guy is a lunatic,” wrote McCoshen, according to the message, which was provided to APTN.
Shannacappo provided APTN with a copy of the Nov. 30, 2016, message from McCoshen.
USAND refused interview requests from APTN Tuesday. Instead, the company tapped a Toronto-based public relations firm, Exceptional Communicators, to respond on behalf of USAND.
Kenneth Evans, a managing partner with Exceptional Communicators, contacted APTN by telephone Tuesday to say USAND had filed a complaint against Shannacappo with Winnipeg Police Fraud Services.
“Eight to 12 weeks ago when (Shannacappo) started coming and harassing USAND Group and specifically (McCoshen) they alerted the Winnipeg fraud department and police department,” said Evans. “So the police have been running and looking at this from an investigative point of view well before Christmas because of the concern (Shannacappo) was trying to extort Sean of USAND Group … Your source for this particular story is completely un-credible, that is our opinion and the opinion of legal departments.”
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Evans said Shannacappo’s allegations are “based on completely false claims and really defamatory and libelous.”
Evans said “there is a (lawsuit) that is being filed against APTN, against (Shannacappo) and as well as (the APTN reporter).”
Evans also said he would be sending APTN a written statement. As of this article’s posting, no statement has been sent to APTN.
Shannacappo said he has not been contacted by anyone from the Winnipeg police department. He also provided his text message exchange with Erinn Mah, chief operating officer for USAND, who informed him of the police complaint.
“Further to the recent threatening texts and voicemail messages you sent the CEO of the USAND Group, this message is to inform you that we have shared the contents with the Winnipeg Police Fraud Services this morning for further investigation,” wrote Mah on Nov. 30.
Shannacappo replied to Mah saying he’d also like to talk to the RCMP.
“That’s good, they and the RCMP may contact me at any time for further info on their investigation,” said Shannacappo. “I have everything on record. Plz let Mr. Sean McCoshen [sic] … of my intentions. I have a lawyer too.”
APTN contacted the Winnipeg police to verify Evans claim. In a statement, the police said it did receive a complaint from USAND.
“However, because this is not a criminal matter, there will be no investigation by the Winnipeg Police Service,” said the statement.
Shannacappo revealed details of his alleged dealings with McCoshen after APTN contacted him to clarify whether he stood by his initial statements to the network.
Although Shannacappo said that he wished he could be compensated, he was told that was not possible. He still made it clear that he was prepared to stand behind what he said to APTN.
“It’s going to hang on my word,” he said. “My word is good.”
Federal Indigenous Affairs department spokesperson Valerie Hache said the department was still investigating USAND.
“This investigation is currently ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time,” said Hache.
Evans claimed USAND received information Indigenous Affairs was no longer investigating the firm.
“We have other information from INAC, there is a conflict there, we have conflicting claims on that,” said Evans.
Former Carry the Kettle chief Barry Kennedy told APTN on Tuesday he has not heard from Indigenous Affairs on the issue since an initial meeting last year after the original story surfaced. Kennedy said he also spoke with an RCMP investigator, but has also not heard back from the Mounties.
A spokesperson for the RCMP at headquarters in Ottawa said the USAND file was in the hands of the Manitoba division.
APTN contacted the Manitoba RCMP seeking comment, but, as of this article’s posting, has not heard back.