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Ex-Canadian Embassy Aide Named in NGSA Fraud Lawsuit

Ex-Canadian Embassy Aide Named in NGSA Fraud Lawsuit

Superior Court Judge Jose Lopez has signed off on a "letter rogatory" that sets in motion the process for attorneys for the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) to depose the former Canadian Embassy aide who has been accused along with the group's former president, Nicholas Bush, of defrauding the association of millions of dollars.

Margaret Elizabeth Martin, who was an "economics counselor" at the embassy in Washington between 1990-1991 and was well known in natural gas circles, allegedly uncovered Bush's embezzlement activities while living with him for a short period after she left the embassy, but she agreed to keep silent about his actions in return for "certain purchases" made with the money he acquired from the fraud, according to amended court papers filed late last month. The purchases included a $250,000 summer home in Garden Island in Battersea, Ontario, and jewelry and a mink coat, the civil lawsuit said.

The NGSA action has charged Martin with five counts of fraud, including "aiding and abetting" Bush in his fraudulent activities, "unjust enrichment" and "civil conspiracy to defraud." The producer group seeks to recover $265,000 (cost of home and $15,000 in electrical improvements) from Martin herself, plus $1 million in punitive damages.

Martin currently is director of Canadian federal government relations for TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. in Ottawa, and has informally denied the charges. She was supposed to submit a formal response to the NGSA charges last week in Superior Court but hadn't done so as of last Thursday. The NGSA hopes to "work something out" with Martin, but if negotiations don't go well in the U.S. it could be forced to bring a lawsuit in Canada against her. "At some point in time," the association is looking to settle with Bush also, a source said.

Martin, who was traveling last week, could not be reached for comment, but TransCanada spokesman Gary Davis told NGI the company "has every confidence in Margaret Martin," and that the lawsuit was not distracting her from her job. "She's hard at work, carrying out her responsibilities for the company."

Since Martin is a Canadian resident and the property NGSA is seeking to encumber is located in Canada, NGSA was required to file for the "letter rogatory," which is a "formal, written communication" from the Superior Court asking the Ontario Court of Justice, General Division, in Ottawa for its "assistance in the taking of evidence" in the case, specifically depositions and the production of documents.

Additionally, the NGSA is seeking to depose two Canadian attorneys, Oliver G. Prevost and Donald B. Good, who acted as agents when Martin acquired the Ontario house near her parents, according to the amended lawsuit.

The original lawsuit, which NGSA brought in late February, estimated that Bush misappropriated about $2.4 million over a 12-year period from the producer group by setting up fraudulent consulting contracts under the names of past acquaintances. Most of the contracts were in the name of James W. O. Rogers, who knew Bush briefly in the 1980s but had no consulting relationship with NGSA. It's now believed that Bush and his accused accomplice, Martin, took NGSA for a little more than $3 million, the lawsuit said. NGSA is seeking to recover the entire amount from the pair, plus $5 million in punitive damages.

While the majority of the money reportedly was embezzled through fraudulent consulting contracts ($2.8 million), Bush allegedly also submitted fraudulent restaurant expenses, says the amended lawsuit. Between 1991-1998, the former NGSA president was reimbursed for $181,297 in expenses for business dinners at two posh D.C. restaurants - Lion D'Or and Germaine's. After Bush was ousted, letterhead from the two restaurants was discovered in his desk at NGSA's headquarters.

Furthermore, the NGSA uncovered another fraudulent consulting contract - this one with the Duberstein Group in Washington D.C. In September 1991, Bush directed NGSA to pay $60,000 to the company, which was never retained for consulting services. The money allegedly was pocketed by the former NGSA president, according to the lawsuit.

On the criminal front, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington is expected to bring criminal charges against Bush within the next few weeks. Separately, the NGSA reportedly has narrowed its choices for a successor to Bush down to three, and is expected to announce a new president within the month, according to sources.

Susan Parker

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