Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Montreal Mayor's Ex-Inner Circle among Nine Arrested in Corruption Sweep: Montreal Mayor's Buddies among 9 Arrested

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Montreal Mayor's Ex-Inner Circle among Nine Arrested in Corruption Sweep: Montreal Mayor's Buddies among 9 Arrested

Article excerpt

MONTREAL - Police arrested nine people in a massive anti-corruption sweep that nabbed several former key members of Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay's inner circle.

With Thursday's dragnet, the corruption scandals that have rocked Quebec over the last four years have returned home to where they started: Montreal's city hall.

It was there that initial news reports about conflicts of interest sprouted, before eventually growing into province-wide scandals that triggered a public inquiry set to begin next week.

Now the mayor's former No. 2, Frank Zampino, faces criminal charges. So does his ex-chief of staff, Martial Fillion. Ditto 74-year-old Bernard Trepanier, a key former fundraiser for the mayor's political party.

The three were picked up Thursday in connection with an alleged fraud scheme related to a public contract worth more than $300 million.

Even the mayor was among the 120 people questioned by police, over the course of a three-year investigation prompted by a tip. Police wouldn't say how many times they had spoken to Tremblay.

The mayor admitted to being shaken by the developments.

"These are serious arrests and I hope light will be shed on this as quickly as possible," Tremblay said.

"There's no doubt that this affects the credibility of elected officials and, in this case, most acutely of municipal officials."

The raft of arrests is among the biggest against alleged corruption in a province that has been awash in scandals for several years.

The suspected scheme was relatively simple: municipal officials were accused of slipping privileged information, like technical specifications, to a construction company that was involved in a competition for a public contract.

Those accused of providing the details were well rewarded, according to police: "We're talking about monetary advantages and gifts," said provincial police Insp. Denis Morin.

Charges to the group will include fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust.

Wearing a hoodie and sunglasses, Zampino was hauled out of his house in handcuffs and taken into custody Thursday morning. He was questioned for hours.

"For us, he was the brains of the operation," Morin told a packed news conference. …

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