Antonio Accurso follows his lawyer, Marc Labelle, to court for opening statements at his Laval collusion trial Oct. 19, 2017. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette
A look at the day’s events in and around Montreal:Laval corruption: Accurso will testify he was unaware of schemes, lawyer says
Construction entrepreneur Antonio Accurso concedes two of his companies were involved in a collusion and kickback scheme run out of Laval’s city hall for years, but will testify any participation in the schemes was handled by people lower than him in his organization.
In a statement made to the jury hearing Accurso’s criminal trial at the Laval courthouse, defence lawyer Marc Labelle characterized his client as someone who was expanding a series of companies he owned into an international business and therefore had little time to be concerned with obtaining municipal infrastructure contracts in Laval.
“Those at the top do not always know what is going on at the bottom,” Labelle said while outlining a defence where it appears clear Accurso will say his cousin, Giuseppe Molluso, 74, the former president of Louisbourg Construction, and Frank Minicucci, a president of Simard Beaudry Inc., were responsible for obtaining municipal contracts in Laval.
The 65-year-old faces a series of charges alleging he was part of a system of collusion that plagued the city between 1996 and 2010. Accurso is on trial on five criminal charges in all, including conspiracy, fraud and breach of trust. The conspiracy charge alleges he was part of a plot that involves dozens of people, including former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, the city’s former director general, Claude Asselin, and its former head of engineering, Claude Deguise.Paradise Papers: Bronfman, Habs issue denials after being swept up in storm
Describing himself as a “proud Canadian” who “has always fully complied with all legal requirements, including with respect to taxes,” Montreal businessman and onetime federal Liberal fundraiser Stephen Bronfman announced Monday he has “never funded or used offshore trusts.”
Bronfman also said his Canadian trusts have paid all taxes on all their income to the Canadian government.
The statement comes after the Toronto Star and CBC/Radio Canada reported that leaked tax haven records now referred to as the Paradise Papers suggest Bronfman and his family’s Montreal-based investment company, Claridge Inc., were linked to an offshore trust in the Cayman Islands that may have used questionable means to avoid paying millions in taxes.
Bronfman is a close friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who tapped him in 2013 to fill the role of revenue chair — effectively, the chief fundraiser — for the federal Liberal Party.
The offshore trust also reportedly involved former chief Liberal fundraiser and senator Leo Kolber and his son, Jonathan Kolber.
In Monday’s statement, Bronfman said that a “single loan made over a quarter-century ago to the Kolber Trust was repaid five months later, and was on an arm’s length, fully commercial basis, in full compliance with all legal requirements, including with respect to taxes.
The Liberal Party of Canada’s chief fundraiser, Stephen Bronfman, attends the party’s caucus retreat in Georgetown, P.E.I. in 2013. Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESSMontreal police close sexual-assault hotline as number of calls drops
The Montreal police force has decided to close a sexual-assault hotline set up last month amid a wave of allegations against high-profile figures.
Before closing Monday, the line had received 463 calls since Oct. 19. The force decided to stop the service after noticing a significant drop in the number of calls since last week.
Of the calls received, police said, 98 resulted in the opening of sexual-assault files, 10 were about “sexual assault-related information that was not related to criminal offences,” 295 were about non-criminal information, and 34 were referred to other police forces.
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