Construction tycoon arrested in anti-corruption sweep
Published Tuesday, April 17, 2012 8:24PM EDT
Fourteen people were arrested in Quebec Tuesday morning, including prominent construction tycoon Tony Accurso, in a series of raids by provincial police following a lengthy investigation into alleged corruption.
In a news conference following the raids, police said Accurso's charges include fraud, conspiracy, influence-peddling, breach of trust and defrauding the government.
A total of 47 charges were laid against the 14 suspects, and an arrest warrant was issued for Richard Marcotte, mayor of Mascouche, north of Montreal.
Police said they plan to arrest Marcotte as soon as he returns from vacation in Cuba. The charges against him stem from city contracts awarded to a company with links to Accurso.
Marcotte had been criticized in the past over his close ties with Accurso and the construction industry.
Investigators reportedly hauled boxes of documents out of Mascouche City Hall Tuesday morning while carrying out their search warrants.
"These arrests and searches come following a one-and-a-half year investigation which allowed us to establish that a system had been put into place a few years ago allowing certain companies to gain an advantage towards the attribution of lucrative municipal contracts," said Lt. Guy Lapointe of the Surete du Quebec, during a news conference Tuesday morning.
He said that "system" was designed to reward elected officials and city officials for decisions that were favourable to certain companies.
In total 120 officers took part in the early morning raids, in Terrebonne, Mascouche and Laval, which were led by the provincial police anti-corruption unit.
In Mascouche, Coun. Lise Gagnon said she was the first to go to police in 2009 with her concerns about questionable land deals.
"I met with police investigators three times," she told CTV Montreal. "I told them everything."
Quebec Premier Jean Charest has called his own inquiry into widespread allegations of corruption involving the construction industry and elected officials and municipal officials in the province.
That inquiry is expected to begin calling witnesses in the fall.
Tuesday's operation was part of Operation Hammer, a campaign designed to weed out corruption within the construction industry.
In January, two of Accurso's companies had their licences suspended after tax fraud convictions.
With reports from CTV Montreal