Antonio Accurso, the construction magnate at the centre of corruption and collusion allegations in Quebec, acknowledged Wednesday two members of the Rizzuto crime family were among the contacts he amassed over his decades in business.
Questioned at the Charbonneau commission into corruption in Quebec’s construction industry, Mr. Accurso identified Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto and his son Nick Rizzuto Jr. as having been “minor contacts” in his vast network. “A minor contact is someone I can run into from time to time, someone I know his name,” he said.
Commission lawyer Sonia LeBel did not explore Mr. Accurso’s relationship with the Rizzutos, but previous witnesses have said Mr. Accurso did more than simply bump into Vito Rizzuto.
Investigator Eric Vecchio testified in March Mr. Accurso had a breakfast meeting with Mr. Rizzuto in 2003 to discuss the possible involvement of one of Mr. Accurso’s firms in a Montreal real-estate project.
Rival businessman Lino Zambito testified in 2012 he was surprised to find Mr. Rizzuto waiting after he had been convened to a meeting with Mr. Accurso to discuss a construction contract the two were interested in landing.
Mr. Zambito said Mr. Rizzuto acted as a mediator, advising Mr. Zambito the project might be too ambitious for his young company. He said Mr. Rizzuto told him, “Try to find a solution with [Mr. Accurso], so that this time it’s him and the next time it will be you.”
Vito Rizzuto died last December of cancer after serving a U.S. prison term for his involvement in three 1981 murders, while Nick Jr. was shot dead in Montreal in 2009.
Mr. Accurso, who is facing criminal charges, including fraud, breach of trust and corruption, has always strenuously denied any association with the Rizzuto family. In 2010, he accused Radio-Canada of falsely reporting he had attended the visitation for the younger Rizzuto.
“Falsely linking Mr. Accurso to the family thought to control the Mafia in Montreal and affirming that he wanted to pay final respects to one of this family’s members cases serious damage to Mr. Accurso’s reputation,” his lawyer said in a statement at the time.
Wednesday, Ms. LeBel was more interested in establishing Mr. Accurso’s close ties to leaders of the Quebec Federation of Labour.
He described former QFL president Louis Laberge as “a spiritual father” and former head of the QFL construction branch Jean Lavallée as the brother he never had. Two other former QFL presidents were friends, he added. But Mr. Accurso insisted he never got any favours from the union because of his personal ties to the leadership and he never meddled in internal union politics.
Commissioner Renaud Lachance challenged his claim his businesses never benefited from the connections he cultivated with union leaders. In 2010, when banks were refusing to lend Mr. Accurso money because his name had become linked to collusion schemes in Montreal, an electricians’ union headed by Mr. Lavallée agreed to lend one of Mr. Accurso’s firms $5-million.
“You don’t think that your excellent relationship with Mr Lavallée might explain why a union local loans money to a businessman who is in trouble?” Mr. Lachance asked. “Do you know a lot of union locals that lend money to businessmen?”
After a long pause, Mr. Accurso acknowledged he did not.
Thanks to Graeme Hamilton.
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