By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 0 Comments
The inside story of the man at the centre of the storm
Lino Zambito is many things, not all of them good. The former contractor, would-be construction magnate and budding restaurateur is currently facing, he estimates, “about 12” fraud, collusion and breach of trust charges for, among other things, his role in an alleged bid-rigging scheme in the Montreal suburb of Boisbriand. In April, he pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to subvert the outcome of a municipal election in that same community. Two days after Maclean’s met with him at the strip-mall pizzeria he now runs, Revenu Québec officials raided it in search of some $38,000 in unpaid taxes. And as the owner of the construction company Infrabec, he has, by his own admission, spent much of the last decade participating in a system that bilked taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
Yet it is precisely because of his misdeeds, or at least his willingness to talk about them under oath, that Zambito is something of a folk hero in Quebec these days. Subpoenaed on Sept. 5—one day after the Quebec election—by the commission investigating the province’s notorious construction industry, Zambito testified for eight days, and what came out of the tall, beefy 43-year-old’s mouth shocked a province and arguably brought a premature end to the careers of two big city mayors.
As a contractor in Montreal, Zambito says he participated in bid-rigging schemes involving the Rizzuto Mafia clan that usually culminated with mobsters stuffing wads of cash into their knee-high socks in the ill-lit backroom of a north end coffee shop. He not only kicked up a cut of his profits to those mobsters but also to various municipal and provincial political parties as well.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, September 17, 2012 at 5:51 PM - 0 Comments
Charbonneau commission, fall session: All eyes on Laval’s Gilles Vaillancourt and Montreal’s Gérald Tremblay
In the end, Donnie Brasco didn’t show up.
For days now, Montreal media has been salivating at the prospect that one of the FBI’s most famous agents would be testifying at the opening day of the commission investigating corruption in Quebec’s construction industry. For good reason: under the moniker Donnie Brasco, Joe Pistone infiltrated New York’s Bonanno clan, and for six years gathered intelligence that would drive a stake through the heart of one of America’s biggest crime families. Also, Johnny Depp played him in a movie. You decide which is more impressive.
Pistone might well still show up at the so-called Charbonneau Commission, whose 18-month mandate includes the examination of the industry’s ties with organized crime. When I asked if Brasco was showing up, as Radio-Canada reported last week, commissioner spokesperson Richard Bourbon smiled. “We never said he was coming in the first place,” he said, winking.
Instead, the first day of the commission’s fall proceedings—Maclean’s wrote about the spring/summer session here—with Judge France Charbonneau essentially pleading with journalists to behave themselves. “The imperative is on the security of the witness, we can’t have them put in danger,” Charbonneau said in her opening remarks. “We are asking the media, with respect, to not publish the names of witnesses before they appear.”
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 3:43 PM - 0 Comments
Jacques Duchesneau was hired to investigate corruption in the construction industry. No one liked what he found.
Montrealers can be forgiven for having been a tad restive during the sweltering first days of summer. There were the nightly student protests against Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s government and clashes with police. About a month ago, a six-metre-deep sinkhole opened up on Sherbrooke Street just hours after tens of thousands of protesters had walked past. In late June, a sewage pipe burst at rue Ste-Catherine and McGill College, revealing that one of the city’s busiest intersections was being largely held up by old tramway rails embedded in the asphalt. More sections of pipe promptly burst under Peel Street.
And then there were the perp walks by public officials. In May, Montreal’s former executive committee chairman, Frank Zampino, was hauled out of bed and arrested for his alleged part in the sale of city land to developer Frank Catania for a fraction of its value. Last week, Luigi Coretti, a close friend of former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Tony Tomassi, who himself faces fraud and breach-of-trust charges, was charged with fraud and fabricating false documents.
Protests. Crumbling infrastructure. Public officials in handcuffs. How much can one city be expected to take?
By Paul Wells - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 11:04 AM - 0 Comments
Jean Charest denied the mess all around him for years–eventually it will destroy him
So what’s the going price for Céline Dion tickets these days, anyway? Nine of them, in a luxury suite at Montreal’s Bell Centre? Figure a little over $200 each, anyway. Not less than $2,000 for the set.
If somebody gave you $2,000 worth of Céline Dion tickets, you’d probably remember who gave them to you. I know I’d never forgive anyone who gave me that much access to that much awful, awful music. But Nathalie Normandeau, who was deputy premier of Quebec until she quit politics last autumn, likes Céline Dion. She did get nine tickets to the Bell Centre suites for a 2009 Dion show. And she still couldn’t remember the name of her benefactor when the Radio-Canada investigative journalism program Enquête called her a couple of weeks ago.
It was a trick question, of course. The reporter from Enquête knew who gave Normandeau the tickets. It was Lino Zambito. The same guy who also gave her Madonna tickets.
By Martin Patriquin - Friday, November 26, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 14 Comments
Allegations of wrongdoing keep piling up in Quebec
La Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) has never been keen on having eyeballs, governmental or otherwise, peering in on its affairs. Part of the reason is pragmatic: as the largest union federation in the province, it represents the lion’s share of workers in Quebec’s construction industry, a notoriously rough-and-tumble industry in which big egos and strong arms traditionally rule the day.
No longer. Last week, FTQ president Michel Arsenault essentially reversed his federation’s year-long opposition to become part of the growing cry for an inquiry into the construction industry and more. With the FTQ now onside with a growing list of fellow unions, political parties, legal and law enforcement organizations and citizens’ groups, there remains one ever-stubborn holdout: Premier Jean Charest, whose governing Liberals this week are expected to (barely) survive a non-confidence motion from the opposition Parti Québécois. Apparently, Charest’s intransigence is hurting him: nearly two out of three Quebecers believe their elected officials have something to hide, while roughly 75 per cent believe their province is corrupt.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Axor's illegal donations in Quebec (but were afraid to ask)
By Philippe Gohier - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 5:34 PM - 0 Comments
Late last week, Quebec’s Directeur général des élections (DGE) announced it had uncovered forty…
Late last week, Quebec’s Directeur général des élections (DGE) announced it had uncovered forty cases of illegal donations to provincial political parties by the engineering firm Axor. (Although the DGE treated the donations as having come from three separate companies—Axor Experts-Conseils inc., Groupe Axor inc. and Axor Construction Canada inc.—for the sake of simplicity, I’ll treat them as one. If their names are any indication, it’s not like much thought went into distinguishing them from each other anyway.)
By Philippe Gohier - Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 7:06 PM - 2 Comments
I’ll admit it: DMA has been pretty hard on the ADQ. I’d apologize if…
The ADQ had its first good idea in a long while yesterday when they called for an inquiry into the dodgier elements in Quebec’s construction industry. Interim leader Sylvie Roy, who was last seen championing an out-of-nowhere campaign against pedophiles, says the Charest government should look into the corruption allegations before it begins pouring $43 billion into the sector by way of infrastructure spending. And it’s a request that appears to be getting more reasonable by the day.
Let’s recap: Continue…