BY DAN FUMANO
After more than 40 months of paid suspension, a B.C. Mountie was exonerated Tuesday in a swift two-minute phone call.
It’s the latest twist in a case that stemmed from a fall 2012 incident in which two cars were reported stolen from the Osoyoos home of Const. Amit Goyal. Since then, Goyal has faced a criminal investigation, a separate civil lawsuit, and has seen his RCMP conduct hearing rescheduled at least six times since disciplinary action began in November 2013.
The saga’s latest chapter ended Tuesday, when the RCMP withdrew all charges and exonerated Goyal, clearing the way for him to return to active duty. The hearing was held via video- and tele-conference, with three RCMP adjudication board officers dialling in from Regina, Edmonton, and Ottawa.
The last time the adjudication board convened in person, in a Richmond hotel in September, the matter was adjourned after Goyal’s lawyer John Benkendorf told the hearing that after reviewing new evidence, he felt “this hearing would be an embarrassment for the RCMP were it to proceed.”
Goyal was facing “extremely serious allegations,” Benkendorf said after Tuesday’s hearing. He had been accused of committing insurance fraud by allegedly abandoning his Audi S5 and an on-loan Ford Ranger on Anarchist Mountain on the outskirts of Osoyoos, torching them and then reporting them stolen.
In the two-minute hearing, the lawyer representing the RCMP, John Reid, said new evidence submitted by Benkendorf in September was “persuasive enough” to convince Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens “it is not in the public interest to proceed, as there is no reasonable likelihood of substantiation.”
“The member (Goyal) has been exonerated by this evidence,” Reid said.
The chair of the adjudication board, Insp. Bernard Tremblay said from Ottawa: “Alright, well, since the allegations are withdrawn, there is nothing left for this board to adjudicate. So, Const. Goyal, unless you’re suspended for any other reason, I expect you’ll be returning to active duty shortly, and wish you good luck going forward. This concludes the proceedings.”
In a statement after Tuesday’s hearing, Callens said: “This protracted process and lack of timely resolution is why the RCMP welcomed the legislative changes to the RCMP Act in 2014. The new conduct process allows misconduct to be addressed in a more responsive, timely and effective manner.”
B.C. RCMP Sgt. Annie Linteau said in an email that Goyal “will have to complete all mandatory requirements before returning to full duty,” but as for a timeline, “that is a difficult question to answer.”
Goyal was not able to comment on the case, Benkendorf said, but he was “relieved it’s over,” glad to be cleared, and eager to return to duty.
“It’s fair to say, in the 16 years I’ve been a lawyer, I’ve never seen a case like this,” Benkendorf said. “I’ve never had something like that, where it was such a difference between what it appeared to be, and what it actually was.”
An early suspect in the car thefts was a local man with a criminal record, court filings show. But the investigation soon turned to Goyal, and RCMP officers from an outside detachment told The Province in 2014 they recommended criminal charges of arson and fraud against Goyal, though the charges were never approved by the Criminal Justice Branch. Goyal was also named in a civil lawsuit filed last June by a former Osoyoos resident, although there has been no activity on the file in the past year, and it was unclear if the action would proceed.