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Monday, June 17, 2013

Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum charged with fraud conspiracy

Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum is taken away by police after being arrested at his home in Montreal on Monday, June 17, 2013 

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Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum has been charged with fraud in connection with two real-estate projects in his west-end borough.
Mr. Applebaum was arrested by Quebec's special anti-corruption police squad Monday morning.
Also arrested were Saulie Zajdel, a former member of the city's executive committee and Jean-Yves Bisson, a former director of permits in the borough.
Mr. Applebaum is facing 14 criminal counts, including fraud, corruption, breach of trust and conspiracy, UPAC commissioner Robert Lafrenière told reporters.
Mr. Zajdel is charged with five counts of breach of trust, fraud, corruption and payment of secret commissions. Mr. Bisson is charged with four similar criminal counts.
The arrests involved people responsible for authorizing two real-estate developments in the borough of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, said Sûreté du Québec Capitain André Boulanger.
He said the charges cover the period between 2006 and 2011.
Tens of thousands of dollars in bribes were paid, Mr. Lafrenière said.
"No one is above the law," he said.
Last January, Mr. Applebaum was asked about a controversial condo project in west end Montreal, near Upper Lachine Road and Wilson Road, which was spearheaded by the businessman Tony Magi.
RCMP court documents identify Mr. Magi as someone who is in familiar terms with members of Montreal’s Rizzuto crime family.
Mr. Applebaum told reporters that he knew Mr. Magi as a developer but had not seen him since 2008.
“I am an honest person, with integrity and I have nothing to apologize for. You cannot buy me,” Mr. Applebaum told reporters at city hall.
Confidence in the interim mayor was shaken however in February when UPAC raided city hall along with six borough offices in Montreal.
Mr. Applebaum is the former mayor of the Montreal west-end borough of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
The CDN-NDG borough has also been targeted by UPAC.
In March, Robert Rousseau, the director of the borough's division of permits and inspections, killed himself hours after being questioned by UPA investigators.
Two months later, UPAC executed search warrants at the borough's offices.
Mr. Applebaum is the latest major Quebec official to fall in the scandal over allegations that public-works contracts were improperly awarded by municipalities to well-connected engineering and construction firms. Earlier this spring, Gilles Vaillancourt former mayor of Laval, Quebec's third largest city, was arrested and charged with fraud and gangsterism.
Mr. Applebaum became Montreal's interim mayor last fall after Gérald Tremblay stepped down following allegations that his party was getting illegal financing from construction bosses.
The arrests came less than five months before municipal elections are to be held in Montreal, raising the prospect that the country's second-largest city could be put under trusteeship, as the province did for Laval earlier this month.
Following Mr. Applebaum's arrest, Jean-François Lisée, the provincial cabinet minister responsible for the city, told Radio-Canada that Premier Pauline Marois' government is monitoring the situation and will make decisions in the interest of "stability" until the Nov 3 elections.
Louise Harel, leader of the opposition at Montreal city hall, said Mr. Applebaum should resign.
She said that, instead of trusteeship, the city should be allowed to follow its charter and pick an interim mayor within 30 days, providing it is someone who will not run for mayor this fall.
“We’re living this moment as a difficult moment for Montreal,” she told reporters.
A former right-hand man of Mr. Tremblay, Mr. Applebaum made a break with his predecessor last November, sitting as an independent.
Mr. Zajdel was more recently in the news after he unsuccessfully ran as a Conservative candidate against Liberal Irwin Cotler in the 2011 election. M. Cotler has alleged that Mr. Zajdel then acted as a "shadow MP" working to undermine him while he had a job as an adviser in Heritage Minister James Moore's office.
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