October 2, 2012
Representatives from 60 construction companies visited Mafia hangout, Quebec corruption inquiry hears
A corruption inquiry is hearing that representatives from more than five-dozen construction companies visited a Mafia hangout several years ago, with the RCMP watching.
RCMP officers were jotting down licence plates outside a notorious Sicilian Mafia hangout on numerous occasions including a 2005 Christmas party.
An investigator for the Charbonneau inquiry testified Sept. 27 that his team later cross-referenced those plates and tied the vehicles to more than 60 construction companies.
He pointed out that some entrepreneurs own multiple companies. But the investigator, Eric Vecchio, noted that a good number of companies that received public works contracts in Montreal, for things like excavation and sewers, were represented at that party.
For instance, he said six out of 10 companies that received contracts for sewer work were represented at that Christmas party in a now-closed “social club.’’
Montreal’s mayor called a news conference where he expressed outrage over the revelations trickling out at the Charbonneau inquiry.
“As a citizen, as the mayor of Montreal, I was profoundly angered,’’ Mayor Gerald Tremblay said.
He demanded that the provincial legislature convene immediately, several weeks ahead of schedule, for an emergency session to toughen contracting laws so that the city can legally bar certain companies from public-works contracts.
The Mafia imposes a 15- to 30-per-cent “tax’’ on construction projects, driving up the cost to taxpayers, the inquiry heard last week.
Tremblay has also asked for an administrative review into a former city employee who happened to be the daughter of one of the construction bosses seen handing over stacks of cash to a late Mafia don in police surveillance video.
This was one day after the Charbonneau inquiry saw old videos of construction bosses handing over money to the now-deceased Nicolo Rizzuto, the onetime head of the Sicilian Mafia in Canada.
The videos and evidence were amassed during Operation Colisee, a five-year investigation that culminated in mass arrests in 2006 in the largest sweep against the Italian Mafia in Canadian history.
But much of the construction-related evidence was ignored. Because construction wasn’t part of the RCMP investigation, which centered on drugs and illegal gambling, officers either ignored evidence or even turned off surveillance microphones while mobsters were talking to construction bosses.
The inquiry head, France Charbonneau, explained today that the RCMP decision was a legal matter.
She said that, in Canada, police investigators cannot listen to conversations involving people not specifically targeted in a wiretap investigation.
The recordings have created a splash now, years later, at the inquiry which is investigating allegations of criminal corruption in the construction industry and its ties to organized crime and political parties.
Tremblay said he wants to hear more about why the evidence was never used.
He said it could have prompted political action years ago that would have saved untold sums of taxpayer money. Tremblay said he wished the material had been handed over to the provincial police.
“I don’t understand,’’ Tremblay said.
“I’m deeply angry about that.’’
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2012
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