By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
QUEBEC – The Quebec government has announced that it will investigate high-ranking members of…
QUEBEC – The Quebec government has announced that it will investigate high-ranking members of the provincial police for possible criminal activity.
Public Safety Minister Stephane Bergeron said the senior officials being targeted are suspected of improperly using of a special-operations fund.
The money is supposed to fund investigative operations, like paying informants. But Bergeron said people drew from it to pay severance packages and also a consultant who had been barred from receiving government contracts because of his tax troubles.
Bergeron said that fund is also supposed to be rigorously accounted for — and he said that didn’t necessarily happen in this case. Continue…
By Tamsin McMahon and Chris Sorensen - Friday, December 7, 2012 at 2:14 PM - 0 Comments
How things went terribly wrong under the watch of one of the most distinguished boards in Canada
Less than a week before its former CEO, Pierre Duhaime, was arrested by Quebec police investigators, SNC-Lavalin announced it had received an award for excellence in corporate governance from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants—the seventh time it won the award in the past decade.
As one of the world’s largest engineering firms, with 32,000 employees and projects ranging from airports to water-treatment plants in more than 100 countries, SNC-Lavalin has cultivated a board of directors that could serve as a who’s who of Canadian business. It includes: EnCana Corp. founding CEO Gwyn Morgan, former York University president Lorna Marsden, Canadian National Railway Co. CEO Claude Mongeau, and, until recently, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal. Among them are three recipients of the Order of Canada. Many of the directors have served on SNC-Lavalin’s board for years.
Yet despite the board’s impeccable credentials, on its watch, senior executives at the firm are now alleged to have misappropriated millions to influence the awarding of big contracts both at home and abroad, and then covered their tracks by earmarking the payments for unrelated projects. The Quebec police have charged Duhaime—who resigned in March—with fraud, reportedly in connection with a contract to build and design a new $1.3-billion “super hospital” in Montreal. Authorities are also looking to charge Riadh Ben Aissa, who led SNC-Lavalin’s construction business from the company’s office in Tunisia. Ben Aissa has been indicted in Switzerland as part of an investigation into a money- laundering scheme, which reportedly involved $139 million worth of payments by SNC-Lavalin. Both he and a company vice-president and financial controller, Stéphane Roy, were fired by SNC-Lavalin earlier this year. Continue…
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 6:27 PM - 0 Comments
Martin Patriquin on Joe Pistone’s testimony
It’s impossible not to listen to Joe Pistone. From the moment he took the stand today at the so-called Charbonneau commission, the man better known as Donnie Brasco waxed nostalgic about the days where he stuck a stake in the heart of the American Mafia. Pistone, you’ll recall, was an FBI agent who between 1973 and 1981 masqueraded as a jewel thief in New York and ingratiated himself with what was then one of the biggest crime syndicates in North America. It is an incredible story, one committed to celluloid by the likes of Johnny Depp in 1997’s Donnie Brasco, and the simple act of hearing him spill what he has already written about in numerous books and one screenplay—in Montreal, behind an identity-shielding barrier, in his Jersey-inflected English—was something to behold.
The question is: beyond the obvious pomp and star power, what does Donnie Brasco’s life story bring to Quebec’s hearings on corruption in its construction industry? After all, impressive as it is, Pistone is an American who investigated an American phenomenon for an American law enforcement agency. He didn’t need to know anything about the Canadian mafia equation—if only because he had other things to worry about, like keeping himself among the living. Montreal’s Rizzuto Clan gets no more than a walk-on role in Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business, Pistone’s third book. This, even though Brasco was undercover when the once-formidable Rizzuto Clan was at its height, and was a major source of drugs (mostly heroin) for New York City.
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 Blog of Lists - Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 11:37 AM - 0 Comments
Montreal has witnessed numerous Mob hits as the city’s crime families have battled for control over the decades.
Here are five that stand out:
1. Paolo Violi, 38: Since the 1950s, Montreal’s Cotroni family was the foremost Maﬁa clan in Canada, controlling swaths of territory across Ontario and Quebec. Until the ’70s, that is, when the Sicilian faction of the clan, headed by Nicolo Rizzuto, usurped them in a violent war for Canadian Maﬁa dominance. The conﬂict culminated in the 1978 murder of Paolo Violi, who led the Cotroni faction. He was shot dead during a card game in a Montreal café that January.
2. Nicolo Rizzuto Jr., 40: Nick Jr., the eldest child of Vito “Teﬂon Don” Rizzuto and grandson of the Rizzuto clan patriarch, was gunned down in a residential street in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood in December 2009. The brazen hit in broad daylight was perceived as an unprecedented challenge to Rizzuto rule in Montreal. Recent police investigations in Canada and the U.S. had weakened the family by landing several key members—including Nicolo Sr. and his son Vito—behind bars.
3. Agostino Cuntrera, 66: In June 2010, Agostino Cuntrera, a powerful Rizzuto associate implicated in the 1978 murder of Paolo Violi, was shot to death with his bodyguard outside his wholesale food warehouse in the St-Léonard area of Montreal. Just one month earlier, Vito Rizzuto’s brother-in-law went missing. Cuntrera’s assassination was taken as evidence of a concerted effort to supplant the Rizzuto clan in Montreal’s criminal underworld.
4. Nicolo Rizzuto, 86: Sitting at the kitchen table of his Montreal mansion, Nicolo Rizzuto was shot and killed with his wife and daughter nearby by a sniper who sent a bullet through a double-paned door in November 2010. He was the key ﬁgure in his family’s rise to Maﬁa power.
5. Salvatore Montagna, 40: The Montreal native became a powerful ﬁgure in the New York Maﬁa after a string of arrests in the mid-2000s. After the U.S. government forced him back to Canada in 2009, he is thought to have played a role in the killings of Rizzuto clan members. In November 2011, Montagna’s body was pulled from a frigid river north of Montreal. A man alleged to be a close associate of Vito Rizzuto was charged with murder.
Have you ever wondered which cities have the most bars, smokers, absentee workers and people searching for love? What about how Canada compares to the world in terms of the size of its military, the size of our houses and the number of cars we own? The nswers to all those questions, and many more, can be found in the first ever Maclean’s Book of Lists.
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By Richard Warnica - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 9:28 AM - 0 Comments
Companies at the centre of a major Quebec corruption probe received money from the…
Companies at the centre of a major Quebec corruption probe received money from the federal government’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure stimulus plan, according to a CP analysis. The investigation of funding in three Montreal-area municipalities found three instances of companies tied to criminal charges receiving cash from the program.
These include companies owned by construction entrepreneurs Tony Accurso and Lino Zambito, both of whom are facing a long series of charges. Money also went to BPR and Transport and Excavation Mascouche (TAM)—two companies charged with fraud and conspiracy.
Word of their success in obtaining stimulus funding comes after a Canadian Press report last week that many individuals facing charges for improper activity at the municipal level have ties to federal parties through political donations.
Despite the flurry of allegations in recent years about corruption in Quebec’s construction industry, the federal government has repeatedly dismissed the idea that it should adopt special safeguards for its historic stimulus program. It has noted that municipal tendering rules are generally a provincial responsibility.
This isn’t the first time questions have been raised about the infrastructure stimulus plan, which saw the federal government pour billions of dollars into projects large and small across the country. Two years ago, Jason Kirby analyzed some of the more dubious spending in the program for Maclean’s.
From the magazine:
The stimulus plan, which the government announced in January 2009 under pressure from opposition parties, was meant to put Canadians to work on shovel-ready infrastructure projects. Originally valued at $40 billion over two years, the Finance Department now says the stimulus measures, including contributions from other levels of government, will hit more than $60 billion. But with the economy well into recovery, critics charge the surge of money flowing out of government coffers is not only needless, in many cases it’s been squandered on frivolous projects. And with at least five years of multi-billion-dollar deficits ahead of us, it threatens the long-term health of the economy.
By Charlie Gillis and Chris Sorensen - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 9:33 AM - 0 Comments
The country’s citizens need only look around to see monuments to their leaders’ hubris
Of the 80 or more television shows Chinese authorities have banned in recent years, the most devoutly missed may be a soap opera called Wo Ju, whose popularity was eclipsed only by its underwear-bunching effect on Beijing’s censors. Its central plot featured a senior government official named Song, who accepts sexual favours from a property-hungry young woman while he brazenly manipulates his city’s real estate market. Song gets his mistress pregnant, is arrested for corruption and ultimately dies in a car accident. But his comeuppance wasn’t enough for China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. The broadcasting gatekeeper cancelled Wo Ju, saying its “sex, dirty jokes and corruption stories” had a “serious negative influence” on society.
Dissolute behaviour among Communist Party potentates has long been a taboo subject in China. Yet these days, for sheer sensationalism, Wo Ju could scarcely compete with the evening news. For more than a month, China has been transfixed by the downfall of Bo Xilai, a once-formidable party figure whose career has crashed amid accusations of corruption, influence peddling and—most sensationally—an attempt to cover up murder. At the centre of the saga: Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, who is under investigation in the poisoning death of a British businessman. Desperate to discredit Bo, party leaders announced they’d stripped him of his prestigious position as party chief in Chongqing, while state media dredged up long-suppressed reports of influence peddling and self-enrichment on the part of the powerful couple.
The result, says Cheng Li, a veteran China watcher with the Washington-based Brookings Institute, has been “the greatest challenge to the Communist Party since Tiananmen Square.” For decades, Chinese leaders have dealt with allegations of misconduct behind closed doors, while projecting an air of fatherly control. Now, having acknowledged murder plots and corruption at such a high level, they’ve stirred doubts about stability within the leadership of the regime, says Cheng. “There is a lot of cynicism about the party. In my view, it has lost the moral high ground.” Worse, Bo’s undoing has ignited age-old rivalries within the politburo, between reform-minded liberals represented by Premier Wen Jiabao, and a growing legion of neo-Maoist conservatives led by Bo. Prior to his spectacular downfall, the 62-year-old chieftain was seen by many as a future president of China. Since the party announced his removal on March 15, he has not been seen in public.
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 Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 12:59 PM - 0 Comments
A Czech company is hoping political corruption will be a lure for tourists.
Canada entices tourists with its natural beauty. Italy leans on Tuscany’s gorgeous landscapes. In the Czech Republic, one tourist outfit is banking on something different entirely: political corruption.
Under the slogan, “Best of the worst,” Prague’s Corrupt Tour takes visitors to places touched by the country’s many corruption scandals, which include lucrative government contracts awarded to single bidders, and others that required hefty bribes. One of their most popular tours, “Safari,” takes visitors to the massive estates of business people alleged to have inked shady deals. “Our target is to get Czech corruption on a UNESCO list of the world’s cultural heritage,” organizer Pavel Kotzya told Reuters of his tongue-in-cheek tourist campaign.
Anna Grzymala-Busse, an expert in post-Communist politics, told The Economist the Czech Republic, which ranks among the world’s most corrupt countries, has experienced “state capture,” where the ruling elite governs in its own interest. That’s good news for Corrupt Tour, at least: it seems they’ll continue to have a lot to showcase.
By Leah McLaren - Monday, March 5, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Serious new allegations dog the media mogul, who wants to move on
Call it Rupert Murdoch’s 81st birthday present to himself. This past weekend, the embattled media mogul ignored the scandals swirling around him and did something characteristically brazen: he launched a new tabloid—the Sun on Sunday—and sat back to count his profits. On the evening of launch day, Murdoch tweeted gleefully that sales had soared past three million (he’d previously said he’d be happy with anything over two million). It was the social networking equivalent of Murdoch affecting a sinister Mr. Burns-style finger tent and murmuring, “Excellent.” But it was also the tycoon’s way of signalling to the world that he is not prepared to go down without a fight.
His British newspaper arm may have been temporarily depleted after he reluctantly shuttered his scandal-plagued Sunday paper, News of the World (NotW), last year after revelations of widespread phone hacking, but it still has some life left in it. Increasingly, however, industry onlookers predict that such grand gestures will fizzle in the long run.
Given the deepening seriousness of corruption allegations against his empire, Murdoch is beginning to look like a defiant captain rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Just hours after the launch of the new Sun, the Leveson inquiry—set up to investigate the role of the press and media in the hacking scandal—reconvened. In what was widely regarded as the most damning day of testimony for Murdoch’s News Corp. so far, there were revelations of a further 200 civil claims from alleged victims of phone hacking and what one police official described as “a culture of illegal payments” at the Sun.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
His well-documented health problems pale in comparison to an intensifying corruption scandal centred on his son-in-law
This hasn’t been King Juan Carlos’s year. Since June, the Spanish monarch has had his right knee replaced, had surgery on his left Achilles, and suffered a black eye and injured nose after colliding with a door. However, all those health problems pale in comparison to an intensifying corruption scandal centred on his son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, that threatens to damage the monarchy itself.
Urdangarin is under investigation for allegedly siphoning millions from his non-profit foundation, the Nóos Institute, into private companies under his control. An Olympic handball player before being elevated to duke of Palma when he married the king’s younger daughter Infanta Cristina in 1997, Urdangarin headed the foundation from 2004 to 2006. As well, leaks from the prosecutor’s office in Palma, the capital of the Balearic Islands, state the institute charged inflated fees and prices on big public contracts to organize events in the region. Police have raided Urdangarin’s offices and removed documents. He’s expected to be named a formal suspect within weeks, with charges coming later.
Urdangarin broke his silence this week, telling the news agency EFE, “I deeply regret that [the accusations] are causing serious damage to the image of my family and the house of his majesty the king, who have nothing to do with my private activities.” His lawyer says “he is fully innocent.”
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 10:05 AM - 0 Comments
A pre-dawn visit to the city’s penitentiary uncovers 19 prostitutes, two peacocks, and 100 plasma TVs
Prisoners at Acapulco’s penitentiary didn’t have time to clean house when more than 500 Mexican police officers paid their residence an unannounced pre-dawn visit last week in order to move 60 inmates to other correctional facilities. In addition to 100 plasma TVs, video games and two bags stuffed with marijuana, the officials also discovered 19 prostitutes, two peacocks and six female inmates in the men’s section. As if the place wasn’t crowded enough, more than 100 cockerels, used for popular cockfights, were found on the premises, as well as two peacocks—described as “pets” by Guerrero state spokesman Arturo Martinez.
Acapulco is in the midst of a violent crime wave as rival drug gangs battle for control of the area. Recently, a human rights commission accused the prison, along with others in the state, of being controlled by inmates. It isn’t alone. In July, detainees in the Cereso Hermosillo jail in Sonora state were caught selling $15 rafﬂe tickets for a one-in-200 chance of using a cell fitted out with air conditioning, a full kitchen including appliances, as well as a comfortable bed and even a private toilet.
By Martin Patriquin - Friday, November 11, 2011 at 8:50 AM - 0 Comments
Threats, violence and a union boss named Rambo. Just another week at a Quebec construction union.
By appearances alone, Bernard Gauthier makes for a great villain. His nickname is Rambo, and though he came by it honestly enough—he served eight years in the Canadian military—it is fitting for a 200-plus-lb. man with a mohawk, an earring and a mouth that would mightily challenge even the most adept broadcast censor. A construction worker practically since he could pick up a hammer, Gauthier is arguably the most notorious and divisive union figure in Quebec today. He is a hero to the men he oversees as a representative with FTQ-Construction, while his critics, and there are many, see him as a thuggish throwback who rules fist-first over his territory.
“We are against violence, but honestly, telling a goddamn bastard that he’s a goddamn bastard feels good,” Gauthier told Maclean’s from his office in Sept-Îles recently. “It’s liberating. It takes out 50 per cent of the rage in your heart. And now you can’t do it. If you do, you’re accused of intimidation, tabarnac.”
Gauthier sees many bastards in his life these days, chief among them Jean Charest’s Liberal government, whose proposed law, Bill C-33, would remove the union movement’s power to dictate which members get to work on which job sites in the province. The practice, known as “hiring hall,” has long been a hallmark of labour codes across North America and Europe, and the Quebec government’s plan to strip it away has Gauthier furious. “We had a nice industry that was quiet, that was flourishing. It was going well, goddammit,” he spits. “Now they’re going to turn it all to s–t.”
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 10:32 AM - 1 Comment
Attempts to reform the construction industry have exposed a deep rift between its unions
By appearances alone, Bernard Gauthier makes for a great villain. His nickname is Rambo, and though he came by it honestly enough—he served eight years in the Canadian military—it is fitting for 200-plus-pound man with a mohawk, an earring and a mouth that would mightily challenge even the most adept broadcast censor.
A construction worker practically since he could pick up a hammer, Gauthier is arguably the most notorious and divisive union figure in Quebec today. He is a hero to the men he oversees as a representative with the FTQ-Construction, the largest construction labour union federation in Quebec; his critics, and there are many, see him as a thuggish throwback who rules jealously and fist-first over his territory.“We are against violence, but honestly, telling a goddamn bastard that he’s a goddamn bastard feels good,” Gauthier told Maclean’s from his office in Sept-Îles recently. “It’s liberating. It takes out 50 per cent of the rage in your heart. And now you can’t do it. If you do, you’re accused of intimidation, tabarnac.”
Gauthier sees many bastards in his life these days, chief among them the members of Jean Charest’s Liberal government, whose proposed law, Bill C-33, would remove the union movement’s power to dictate which union members get to work on which job site in the province. Continue…
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
The Quebec premier tends to reverse himself only after incurring maximum political damage
Jean Charest stays in power because of his political smarts, his eye for the jugular and his ability to, time and again, defy expectations. At least, this is the accepted wisdom when describing how Charest, who has never exactly warmed Quebec’s collective heart, has managed to become one of the country’s longest-serving premiers. He is a constant in a fractured political landscape: the 53-year-old has faced no less than five Parti Québécois leaders over three elections. And he has strongly hinted he’s hungry for more.
Yet if Charest has a weakness, it’s his own tendency to make and hold to highly contentious decisions, only to reverse himself once the decision has incurred the maximum political damage on his own government. Exhibit A: the premier recently said he’d be open to holding some form of public inquiry into the province’s demonstrably corrupt construction industry—something the opposition, the voting public and several municipal officials have pleaded for throughout the last two years. And as lukewarm as Charest’s endorsement may sound, it constitutes nothing short of a huge climbdown for the premier, who has spent much of this time refusing to even consider the possibility.
There are many such grand reversals throughout Charest’s eight years in office. The building of the CHUM, Montreal’s French superhospital, was delayed by Charest’s insistence that it be located in the municipality of Outremont, even though the public overwhelmingly favoured a downtown site. Only after the ensuing squabble—which delayed the project by upwards of four years, according to former Université de Montréal rector Robert Lacroix—did the premier reverse himself.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
Quebec premier said to be considering semi-private inquiry into widespread allegations of corruption
According to a report in La Presse, after months of mounting pressure to do so, Quebec Premier Jean Charest will announce an inquiry into the province’s construction industry. The announcement will reportedly be made sometime in the next two weeks, ahead of the provincial Liberals’ convention the weekend of October 22. The inquiry isn’t expected to be entirely public, as the provincial government is considering allowing witnesses to testify in camera. It’s equally unclear who will lead the inquiry. Jacques Duchesneau, the head of the province’s anti-collusion investigative unit, has called on the government to lean on a group of three judges to look into widespread allegations of corruption within the industry.
By Jen Cutts - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:50 AM - 0 Comments
Brazil’s new president is cleaning out corruption
Dilma Rousseff is on a roll. After just nine months in office, Brazil’s president has parlayed a string of corruption scandals into a boost in popularity (87 per cent of Brazilians say she is doing an average, good or excellent job). She is quickly shaking off the expectation that she would quietly serve as a placeholder for former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a man described by Barack Obama as “the most popular politician on Earth” (but prevented by law from seeking a third consecutive term in office). And when the UN General Assembly opened last week, Rousseff delivered the opening address, the first woman ever to do so.
For most heads of state, losing four ministers and dozens of officials to accusations of corruption in under a year would spell trouble. But Rousseff is making it work for her, appearing to Brazilians to be shaking bad apples from government. The latest is Pedro Novais, 81, who resigned on Sept. 14 as tourism minister after a São Paolo newspaper ran a story alleging he used public money to hire a maid and chauffeur for his wife. In August, more than 30 officials from his ministry resigned over similar accusations. Rousseff has also pushed out her chief of staff and transport and agriculture ministers, all over allegations of graft.
The press in Brazil has tried to paint a picture of a president who is “only putting on a show of cleaning house,” says Matthew Taylor, a political scientist at the University of São Paulo, “without engaging the deeper problems of corruption.” But that image isn’t sticking. “It seems she’s managed to convince the public that she had nothing to do with the worst of the problems,” says Taylor, by “discreetly pointing to the fact that she ‘inherited’ much of her cabinet” from Lula, who took more of a wait-and-see approach to releasing scandal-stained ministers.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 9:20 AM - 4 Comments
New revelations about Berlusconi further erode his image, but no one seems ready to bring him down
On Sept. 19, Italy had its debt rating slashed by Standard & Poor’s. Three days earlier, the world had learned the country’s leader privately calls himself a “spare-time” prime minister.
The remark, along with several snippets of phone conversations that were never meant to leave Silvio Berlusconi’s inner circle, found its way into national and international headlines when wiretap transcripts tied to an ongoing investigation became public. The controversial excerpts featured the prime minister insulting Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, and boasting about sleeping with eight women in a single night. Most importantly, the tapes revealed that he may have been the object of blackmail by some close associates who used to supply him with prostitutes and aspiring starlets for his parties. The wiretaps also uncovered high-level corruption at Finmeccanica, a state-controlled defence and industry group. Though the inquiry has not lead to charges being laid against Berlusconi so far, it represents the fifth judicial proceeding the prime minister is embroiled in, on top of four court cases where he is defending himself against accusations including corruption, tax fraud and paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl.
The new scandals have come at a time when Berlusconi’s approval ratings were already plumbing unprecedented lows—at around 24 per cent, according to one newspaper poll—and no other political personality or party seems ready to supplant him at the helm. The Italian leadership is coming to resemble a headless chicken, just when the country must pull together to implement a $73-billion austerity package meant to reassure rattled investors that it won’t become insolvent on $2.6 trillion in public debt.
By Martin Patriquin with Philippe Gohier - Friday, September 23, 2011 at 9:15 AM - 6 Comments
The Duchesneau report details corruption, a money-laundering transport ministry and language laws that stymie competition
It has become a cliché to say Jean Charest has nine lives. The Quebec premier, who has spent more than half his life in politics, has made a sport out of defying expectations with his ability to spring back, catlike, from political disaster. At 36, he brought the federal Progressive Conservative Party from the brink; in 2003, at 44, he overcame an earlier loss to Lucien Bouchard to become premier, and has ruled ever since.
Until recently, Charest had seemingly turned his rather disastrous year in office into this comeback-kid narrative. This is no small feat. Over the last 12 months, Charest’s Liberals weathered allegations of favouritism in the selection of judges, an embarrassing flip- flop on the development of shale gas resources, and have been dogged by news that the party had been the recipient of hundreds of thousands of donations (some legal, some not) from several of the province’s largest engineering and construction firms—the very ones who won lucrative construction contracts from the Ministry of Transport. Far from backing down, Charest mused he might even take a fourth kick at the can.
What a difference one leak can make. Last week, a scathing report on the province’s construction industry, leaked to La Presse and Radio-Canada, stymied Charest’s legacy and, more importantly, gave Quebecers a glimpse at the scale of corruption plaguing the province’s construction industry.
By M.G. Vassanji - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 10:25 AM - 5 Comments
The country seems well, but corruption is rampant
In Tanzania, is it that they complain too much, or they expect too much? Since the beginnings of economic and political liberalization in the 1990s, the nation has charged forward; the print media is bold and vociferous in both of the national languages, English and Swahili—especially the latter. Paved roads connect every part of the country, reaching towns and villages previously cut off during the rains; cellphones are in evidence everywhere. The country is connected. It’s as if an engine turned on one day, and the once laid-back country, known as “the land of not yet,” woke up. So what are the complaints about? Or, as a slick, modern voice on the radio says in an angular Swahili, “Wapi ni beef?”
I’m sitting in a full minibus in the lush, hilly southern province of the country, heading from the provincial capital, Mbeya, down to Kyela on Lake Nyasa near the Malawi border. We pass areas growing wheat and corn, tea, banana, avocado, red beans and cocoa. We pass roadside markets selling vegetables, timber and locally made furniture. Finally we arrive at the market town, Kyela, known for its famous Mbeya rice. I can’t help observing that if one did not long for modern amenities such as a hot shower, one could simply lie under a tree all day, picking the occasional weed, and not starve.
On the way, my companion Felix, a local investigative journalist, points out other places of interest: the modest headquarters of a yogourt maker whose product now reaches all over the country; the modest house of a local man who owns hotels in the capital; a downhill bend on the road that was formerly called Uwanja wa Ndege, or “Airport,” because—before the speed bumps came up—vehicles would fly off from this spot down into the valley below; a coal mine started by the Chinese. Felix also tells disturbing stories of abuses of village women by foreign mine workers.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
The U.S. government recognizes Libya’s transitional council, while the Taliban ramps up its campaign of violence in Afghanistan
A federal court judge this week granted the Canada Revenue Agency permission to launch a corruption probe in Quebec. It will examine the books of 176 municipalities, looking for irregularities in the $8 billion in contracts awarded each year to the construction industry. The Quebec government has resisted calls for an inquiry into alleged ties between the industry and organized crime. Perhaps tax officials can get to the bottom of what most Quebecers have long said is a deep-rooted problem.
Time for an explanation
A woman who was viciously assaulted by Russell Williams is suing the ex-colonel—and the Ontario Provincial Police—for damages. Laurie Massicotte was tied up, stripped naked and photographed for hours inside her home, less than two weeks after another neighbour endured a similar attack. At the time, authorities had no idea Williams was the culprit, but police have never explained why they chose not to warn the public after the first assault. Massicotte deserves an answer, and her lawsuit should force the OPP to provide one.
By Julia Belluz - Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:35 AM - 1 Comment
An Indian website is taking on the country’s corrupt politicians
If you measure the level of corruption in India using Ipaidabribe.com, it appears many more citizens in the world’s largest democracy are getting ripped off than not. On the site, regular Indians blog about their brushes with bribery or share tales of hoodwinking the hoodwinkers. Right now, though, there is only one story of triumph for every 10 tales of sleaze. The site’s creators hope the ratio will tip the other way, as Ipaidabribe.com becomes one of many recent Internet tools intended to shame governments into addressing the problem of bribery—part of an anti-corruption campaign that’s sweeping India. In some states, applications for birth and death certificates have gone online, as have bids for government contracts, minimizing the opportunity for petty in-person bribery.
For now, Ipaidabribe.com will serve as a cultural document of India’s ubiquitous culture of graft, and as a repository of frustrated Indians’ stories. One user in Hyderabad had to fork out an “appalling” 15,000 rupees for electricity; another in New Delhi says it took 2,000 rupees to get her medical school to hand over her medical certiﬁcates. And another threw his hands up after a brush with a crooked customs officer at the airport: “God bless India,” he wrote, “because India needs God more than ever.”
By Julia Belluz - Monday, May 2, 2011 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
An unprecedented popular uprising against graft is sweeping India
It may take a Gandhian figure to unshackle India once again. In April, Anna Hazare, a 73-year-old activist and ex-army driver known for his calm demeanour, flowing white garb, and kind smile, evoked Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience by fasting in demand for social change. But instead of fighting for freedom from a colonial power, Hazare’s target was the endemic corruption that currently infects many parts of Indian society. From Mumbai to Lucknow, thousands responded to Hazare’s call to “fill India’s jails” in protest, fasting with Hazare, and organizing candlelight vigils. Even Bollywood stars took part, and supporters mobbed the Jantar Mantar monument in central Delhi, where Hazare was striking.
This Tahrir Square-style moment arose from frustration over what Indians are referring to as a “season of scams”—a recent wave of news about corruption. Though graft is nothing new in the world’s largest democracy, analysts say it is now more ubiquitous than ever: opportunities for fraud have blossomed with India’s rapid economic growth. “The enormous influx of money into India,” says Stephen Cohen, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, “has led to an enormous amount of corruption.” And if India is held up as an example of an Asian democracy whose spectacular economic boom has rivalled only that of authoritarian China, such scams threaten to stifle not only the economy (estimates put the black market at 50 per cent of GDP, or $640 billion in 2008), but also the country’s moral fabric.
In November, there was the discovery that Mumbai apartments allocated for war widows were being taken by retired army officers. That was also when the “mother of all scams” was revealed: the telecommunications minister, Andimuthu Raja, resigned over revelations that some $40 billion in government revenue had been lost because he was selling 2G mobile-phone licences for far below market value to select firms in exchange for bribes.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, April 18, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 7 Comments
Corruption allegations fly, but voters love him
The cabane à sucre is an annual rite for many Quebecers, and on a recent Friday afternoon, 650 golden agers from the city of Laval, a vast suburb north of Montreal, bused into the nearby town of St. Eustache to eat crepes with maple syrup, cretons, and maple syrup-flavoured fèves au lard, and to indulge in a spot of line dancing. Aside from the festive sense common to sugaring-off events, though, this one had a spirit of civic pride. “Our mayor is number one!” said Gino, an ebullient 58-year-old. “Every year he invites us here.” “It doesn’t cost us anything. It’s a gift from Mayor Vaillancourt,” said Gabriel, who along with his wife was on his fourth free cabane à sucre outing.
Indeed it was: the merry event was entirely paid for by PRO Lavallois, the political party that has governed Laval for 22 years—the last 10 unopposed. Paying for seniors to go to a cabane à sucre has been a tradition for over 15 years. Over the course of two days, the party footed the bill for some 2,600 seniors, at an estimated cost of $16 per person, and most were quite appreciative. Attendees interviewed by Maclean’s said cabane à sucre was something they looked forward to every year. Across the room, the object of their affection, Gilles Vaillancourt—the bespectacled 70-year-old architect of PRO Lavallois’s two-decades-long supremacy and a man currently mired in allegations of bribery, favouritism and influence peddling—shook every hand, listened to every anecdote and chuckled graciously at every joke.
The event had all the hallmarks of a campaign stop, down to the huge “Team Vaillancourt” banners decorating the sugar shack and the PRO Lavallois pens handed to every senior as they left. Yet the next election isn’t for two years, and the people in attendance aren’t all PRO members. Arguably, Vaillancourt wouldn’t need to campaign even if there were an election—he beat his last opponent by nearly 40 percentage points in 2009. He just seems to love doing it.
By Alex Derry - Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 10:18 AM - 1 Comment
The Kiev zoo goes from a family favourite to a den of neglect and death
What did Boy the elephant, Maya the camel and Theo the zebra have in common? All three beloved animals have died at the Kiev Zoo, a facility that went from being one of city’s favourite destinations to a place better known for animal neglect and death. The 100-year-old zoo was expelled in 2007 from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria after a brown bear was traumatized when moved to a pen she had to share with a male Malayan sun bear. Svitlana Berzina was then the zoo’s director; during her tenure, about 250 animals died.
Some Kievans believe the animals are deliberately being neglected and, in some cases, illegally sold in order to expedite a real estate deal. Welfare groups are calling for the zoo to be closed and for the animals to be sent to more humane zoos around Europe. “The Kiev Zoo will never attain any basic standards, it’s so far removed from any zoo in Europe,” said John Ruane of Naturewatch, a British animal rights organization. “The conditions have been absolutely horrendous.”