MONTREAL – A corruption inquiry is hearing that people from dozens of construction companies attended a Mafia Christmas party in Montreal a few years ago, with the RCMP watching.
RCMP officers were jotting down licence plates outside a 2005 holiday get-together at a notorious Sicilian Mafia hangout.
An investigator for the Charbonneau inquiry is testifying today that his team later cross-referenced those plates and tied the vehicles to more than 60 construction companies. He points out that some entrepreneurs own multiple companies.
But the investigator adds that a good number of companies that have received public-works contracts in Montreal, for things like excavation and sewers, were represented at that party.
For instance, he says six out of 10 companies that received contracts for sewer work were represented at that Christmas party in a now-closed “social club.”
That testimony comes one day after the Charbonneau inquiry saw old videos of construction bosses handing over stacks of cash to the onetime head of the Sicilian Mafia in Canada, the now-deceased Nicolo Rizzuto.
The videos and evidence were amassed during Operation Colisee, a five-year investigation that culminated in mass arrests in 2006 in the largest sweep against the Italian Mafia in Canadian history.
But much of the construction-related evidence was ignored. Because construction wasn’t part of the RCMP investigation, which centered on drugs and illegal gambling, officers either ignored evidence or even turned off surveillance microphones while mobsters were talking to construction bosses.
The inquiry head, France Charbonneau, explained today that the RCMP decision was a legal matter. She said that, in Canada, police investigators cannot listen to conversations involving people not specifically targeted in a wiretap investigation.
The recordings have created a splash now, years later, at the inquiry which is investigating allegations of criminal corruption in the construction industry and its ties to organized crime and political parties.