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Ex-NHL enforcer Laraque hangs up political skates to fight fraud charges

MONTREAL - Former hockey tough guy Georges Laraque says he is putting his political career on ice for the time being so he can fight fraud charges filed against him.

Laraque said late Thursday afternoon he is stepping down as deputy leader of the federal Green Party and as a candidate for the party in a Montreal-area byelection, which he had originally said he planned to contest despite the allegations.

"I have spent the better part of the day reflecting on this with family, friends, supporters, members of the party and my campaign team," he said in a statement.

"It is a very difficult decision to make, but ultimately, I make this decision for the residents of Bourassa, so as not to distract from the many important issues to be addressed in this campaign. I will focus on proving my innocence before returning to any roles within the Green party."

Green Leader Elizabeth May, the party's only elected MP, said she accepted his resignation as a candidate and deputy leader with regret.

"I am confident of Georges' innocence and I support him personally," she said.

"The Green party holds itself to a high standard and believes that any candidate or MP of any party cannot serve the public interest if dealing with charges such as these. Once Georges is exonerated, I hope he will once again represent us as a candidate."

Earlier this year, media reported police near Montreal raided Laracque's home in search of documents related to the Super-Glide synthetic ice venture.

May defended Laraque in the past but said she'd ask him to step aside as deputy leader for the duration of any investigation if he were the focus of the police probe.

Laraque confirmed in an interview Wednesday night the criminal charges are related to two transactions worth a total of $120,000. He said the accusations stem from a dispute with engineer Marc Filion, who co-founded the company with him in 2009.

The vegan animal-rights activist has a court appearance scheduled for Nov. 19.

Before his career as an activist and politician, the 36-year-old Laraque played for four NHL teams between 1997 and 2010 and was best-known for his fighting skills.

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