Montreal's ex-mayor Applebaum allowed to leave country, despite 14 charges

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL – Former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum has permission to go on holiday outside the country, despite facing a number of criminal charges.

A member of his legal team said Applebaum got his passport back from authorities last week as he prepared for a 10-day trip, which was planned well before his arrest.

The prosecution and defence agree Applebaum does not represent a flight risk.

Defence lawyer Conrad Lord said he doesn’t know where Applebaum is going next week, but that it’s not a business trip. The veteran lawyer said a media report that Applebaum was “fleeing” to the Bahamas was false.

“He’s not going to flee the country, he’s not going to hide somewhere, he’s not going to go live in a third country,” Lord told reporters Thursday.

“Basically he’s asking for what any defendant would ask under circumstances where trips were planned in advance.”

Crown prosecutor Marie-Helene Giroux said it had been previously agreed that Appelbaum would be allowed to travel for a specific trip.

She was asked if she had any concerns about Applebaum leaving the country.

“Not at all,” Giroux said.

It’s common for the criminally accused to hand over a passport to limit travel, but it’s not uncommon for the Crown to allow for specific travel. Applebaum was given back his passport to travel over a 10-day period.

His lawyer noted that his only address is in Quebec.

Applebaum faces 14 charges including fraud, conspiracy, breach of trust, and corruption in municipal affairs. He stepped down as interim mayor one day after his arrest by Quebec’s anti-corruption unit.

He was charged along with a borough official, Jean-Yves Bisson, and with Saulie Zajdel, a longtime municipal politician who ran federally for the Conservatives in 2011 and was subsequently hired by a minister’s office to work on community outreach.

Zajdel now faces five charges including bribery, breach of trust, fraud and corruption.

The trio, including Applebaum, are scheduled for an arraignment on Oct. 9.

Applebaum’s lawyers were in court Thursday battling over media access to sealed documents. Lawyers were expecting to argue a motion filed by the media to have search-warrant affidavits unsealed.

But they couldn’t find a judge available to hear the case Thursday. The dispute will be heard in court in the fall.

The arguments are expected to pit the freedom of the press against the presumption of innocence. Lord said he hadn’t seen the documents but he maintains his client is innocent.

“I prefer that (the evidence) is not divulged — not because we’re afraid of the content, but to preserve any element that could prejudice any oncoming trial,” Lord said.

Lord said his client was still in Montreal on Thursday, even though he was not at the courthouse for the since-delayed hearing on the affidavits.

“It’s not that he’s hiding,” Lord said.

“It’s not his place to be here today.”