Norbourg victims to get $55 million

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Norbourg fraud victims Michel Vézina, left, and Wilhelm Pellmans, centre, join Jacques Larochelle, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, at a news conference Wednesday in Montreal.

Investors who lost money in the Norbourg investment scam will recover it all, Quebec's securities regulator says.

An agreement in principle reached Wednesday on a class-action settlement will distribute an additional $55 million to victims.

The money to be distributed is in addition to what's already been paid by a fund administered by the Autorite des marches financiers, or AMF, funds recovered by the bankruptcy trustees and the liquidator, and funds returned by Quebec's Revenue Department.

All proceedings involving investors in the Norbourg case will end with the court's approval, the regulator said Wednesday in announcing the agreement in principle in Montreal.

The agreement does not include an admission of liability.

The settlement will be covered by Beaulieu Deschambault, Remi Deschambault, the AMF, The Northern Trust Company, Concentra Trust and KPMG LLP.

Details about the distribution of funds will be provided after the Quebec Superior Court ratifies the settlement.

The AMF said the parties agreed to settle the suit in the interest of the victims and to avoid costly legal proceedings, which were scheduled to last more than four months and involve about 100 witnesses.
9,200 investors bilked

Jacques Larochelle, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he's not aware of a similar settlement in any fraud case in Quebec.

About 9,200 investors were duped in the 2005 scam, which saw money from a Norbourg trust fund diverted by the company's founder, Vincent Lacroix, for personal use. At the time, it was described it as one of the biggest frauds in Canadian history.

Michel Vézina, 72, who lost about $300,000 in the Norbourg scam, said he never lost hope the money would be recovered. He said he took his blood pressure this morning, and it was normal for the first time in a long while.

Vézina said he wants to put the affair behind him, even the idea that Lacroix may be released from prison in the coming weeks. Lacroix is to appear before a parole board next week and has already asked to be transferred to a halfway house in Ontario if released.

Fifteen months ago, Lacroix was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to 200 fraud-related charges.