By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – As Quebec’s corruption inquiry awaits to hear from ex-Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay,…
MONTREAL – As Quebec’s corruption inquiry awaits to hear from ex-Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay, his former right-hand man is explaining he never wanted the top job.
Frank Zampino says he was encouraged by his own entourage in 2007 to run for mayor but that he wasn’t interested.
He ultimately left city hall to return to the private sector in 2008 after discussing the matter with his family.
Within days of his retirement, he received multiple job offers from various firms before accepting one from engineering firm Dessau.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 9:42 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – To hear “Mr. Three Per Cent” tell it, municipal politics in Quebec…
MONTREAL – To hear “Mr. Three Per Cent” tell it, municipal politics in Quebec operated like a big racetrack — one where companies bet on different horses in the hope their candidate might gallop to victory and shower them with riches.
In his first day on the witness stand at Quebec’s corruption inquiry, Bernard Trepanier began to describe his role in municipal elections where private companies illegally financed campaign bids.
He called them “turn-key” elections. Companies would provide everything, and candidates could step right into their privately financed campaign operation.
In his days as an organizer for municipal parties on the outskirts of Montreal, Trepanier said political parties got cash from companies. Meanwhile, he got cash from parties. And he would be listed as a volunteer organizer, while the payments he received were mostly undeclared and illegal.
In essence, political campaigns were not just democratic contests between candidates — but a clash between various companies seeking post-election favours.
“There were small battles between area law firms, engineers and contractors, to get city contracts,” said Trepanier, as he began his long-awaited testimony.
He earned the unflattering nickname “Mr. Three Per Cent” in Quebec news reports over recent months, as other witnesseses cast him as a central player in corrupt municipal political schemes. Witnesses described a cartel system where companies inflated the cost of public projects, and split percentages with the Mafia, corrupt bureaucrats and Trepanier’s once-mighty Union Montreal party.
Such alleged practices would make a mockery of Rene Levesque’s landmark reform designed to clean up politics in the 1970s. That law, which has since been copied in numerous jurisdictions and at the federal level, banned corporate donations and limited personal contributions in Quebec.
Trepanier bluntly stated Tuesday that he did not believe Levesque’s law had ever been respected — at least not at the municipal level.
Eventually, when he went on to work for Union Montreal, Trepanier even got paid as a lobbyist from a big engineering company, Dessau Inc., at the same time that he handled fundraising for the party.
The inquiry heard that Trepanier, now 74 and retired, earned more than $900,000 between 2002 and 2010 from Dessau.
Trepanier explained Tuesday that the money from Dessau — about $100,000 a year — was for opening doors to contracts at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.
The airport is federal property, and the inquiry declined to explore those contracts because its mandate is limited to the provincial and municipal levels.
Trepanier described politics as a hobby.
Before he became a local player, he got his start at the federal level with the old Conservative party. He said he first got involved as a volunteer with the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 1983 in LaSalle, Que.
After the Tories’ 1984 election win, he went to Ottawa to work as an aide to several ministers — starting with Benoit Bouchard, then the minister of transport.
After Bouchard was shuffled to a different portfolio, Trepanier worked with a trio of other Tory ministers — including Suzanne Blais-Grenier and Andre Bissonnette, who was accused of fraud in a land deal and later acquitted by a jury.
Trepanier’s last post was with Monique Vezina in 1987. He would remain involved in the PC party until 1997 and he worked on the victorious leadership bid of Kim Campbell in 1993.
The inquiry will not probe Trepanier’s federal activities, as it focuses on its local and provincial mandate.
The former fundraiser from Union Montreal has been identified by witnesses as having collected a three per cent cut from construction contracts on behalf of the party. But another witness this week, ex-party agent Marc Deschamps, said Union Montreal never saw any of that money.
Trepanier has not yet been questioned about what happened to the money; his appearance will resume Wednesday.
Trepanier is one of three major witnesses expected to be heard by the inquiry in the coming days — the others being former Montreal executive committee chairman Frank Zampino and ex-mayor Gerald Tremblay.
The elderly man appeared nervous as he took the stand Tuesday, coughing frequently.
The judge overseeing the inquiry, France Charbonneau, asked the witness if he needed water. Trepanier responded with a joke: “I don’t smoke enough cigarettes.”
His hands shook as he tried to pour himself a glass and he warned on two occasions that a previous drinking problem might have caused gaps in his memory.
Before he began working in Montreal, Trepanier said he worked on elections in no fewer than nine municipalities in the greater Montreal area in the 1990s.
He got his local start in 1989 with Gilles Vaillancourt, the long-ruling Laval mayor who quit last fall under a cloud of scandal. Trepanier also worked with Zampino in his first election in St-Leonard, a suburb in east-end Montreal. Zampino now faces fraud charges, along with Trepanier.
Trepanier said he was never paid for his services by either of those two men. He said he had fun working with Zampino, calling his team “a good group, a family.”
“A friend is a friend,” he said of Zampino.
Trepanier says he took municipal election gigs as a way to build contacts.
In 2002, he started a consulting company he called Bermax. He responded enthusiastically when asked where the company name came from.
“My first name is Bernard, and it’s Bernard to the max!” he replied. The company was essentially a lobbying firm, although he never was formally registered as a lobbyist.
Through Bermax, Trepanier had a number of clients including major engineering firms like Desseau and SM, as well as a few communications and advertising firms.
Trepanier told the inquiry he first met Dessau officials while working in Ottawa in 1984, including a company founder and one of his sons. His contract with Dessau in 2002 was signed by Rosaire Sauriol, who this week quit the firm in scandal.
By Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press - Friday, March 22, 2013 at 6:40 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Montrealers are now facing a bumpy dilemma on the road to clean…
MONTREAL – Montrealers are now facing a bumpy dilemma on the road to clean government.
Residents of the city are being asked to choose between two less-than-inspiring options: Would they prefer more potholes in their streets? Or would they like to see a city contract going to some companies involved in corruption scandals?
Because it seems that, for now, it’s one or the other.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:32 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – The extension of the mandate for Quebec’s corruption inquiry became more likely…
MONTREAL – The extension of the mandate for Quebec’s corruption inquiry became more likely today after it was supported by opposition parties in the legislature.
Robert Poeti, the Liberal public security critic and a former police officer, says extending the inquiry deadline to spring 2015 would be an investment in the future.
He says the cost of prolonging the inquiry another 18 months can be justified because it is a protection against increased costs incurred through corruption.
By Sidhartha Banerjee - Monday, February 18, 2013 at 4:55 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – The Quebec corruption inquiry has arrived at the doorstep of the Sicilian…
MONTREAL – The Quebec corruption inquiry has arrived at the doorstep of the Sicilian Mafia.
A man known as “Mr. Sidewalk,” Nicolo Milioto, has begun to testify.
The elderly construction boss was little known before the inquiry began but has become a major character during its hearings.
Video surveillance has shown him handing stacks of cash to the since-murdered Mafia don, Nicolo Rizzuto, who would promptly stuff the money into his socks.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 1:08 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – A Quebec construction boss says he gave generously to municipal and political…
MONTREAL – A Quebec construction boss says he gave generously to municipal and political parties of all stripes, but never expected contracts in return.
Joe Borsellino says he viewed the various events as a networking exercise.
He contributed to the provincial Liberals, and to a lesser extent the Parti Quebecois, along with municipal parties in Montreal.
He says his contributions were always made by cheque, never with cash, though he admitted he may have reimbursed people outside his family for donations they made on one or two occasions. It is illegal to funnel donations through third parties in order to hide contributions that exceed the limits.
By Sidhartha Banerjee - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 5:35 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – A corrupt cartel that controlled Montreal’s construction industry was not set up…
MONTREAL – A corrupt cartel that controlled Montreal’s construction industry was not set up by the Mafia, or by company bosses, but by a mid-level municipal functionary, according to testimony heard Tuesday.
That account, provided by a construction boss at Quebec’s corruption inquiry, marked a dramatic departure from previous testimony heard in recent months.
Earlier testimony had suggested that city officials simply drew financial benefit by co-operating with the bid-rigging system in public procurement.
But, to hear Joe Borsellino tell it, a bureaucrat was the one pulling the strings.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Quebec’s corruption inquiry has heard from police, construction bosses and bureaucrats. Pretty…
MONTREAL – Quebec’s corruption inquiry has heard from police, construction bosses and bureaucrats. Pretty soon, that list could grow to include a suspected Mafia boss.
The lawyer for a reputed member of the Montreal Mafia is trying to get his client out of testifying before the inquiry.
Raynald Desjardins is currently awaiting trial for first-degree murder in the slaying of a former Bonanno crime boss.
Lawyer Marc Labelle says since his client is already awaiting trial, testifying before the inquiry could hinder his attempt to find an impartial jury.
A lawyer representing the inquiry says it’s interested in Desjardins’ involvement in a construction firm that specialized in decontamination.
Labelle notes that Desjardins’ earlier failed attempt to have a subpoena quashed before the Quebec Superior Court received heavy media coverage and he says any testimony before the inquiry would get 10 times more attention.
The lawyer asked for commission counsel to make sure it was absolutely necessary for Desjardins to testify, and, if so, that it be done behind closed doors under a publication ban.
Simon Tremblay, a commission counsel, called Desjardins’ request premature and noted the date of his murder trial has not even been set.
France Charbonneau, who heads the commission, says she’ll deliberate on the request.