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A photo taken in Montreal on Sept. 26, 2012, from an RCMP surveillance video presented as evidence at the Charbonneau commission, an inquiry looking into corruption and collusion in Quebec's construction industry. It allegedly shows Nick Rizzuto Sr., right, exchanging tens of thousands of dollars with Nicolo Milioto, left, former head of Mivela Construction Inc. Also at the table is alleged mafiosa Rocco Sollecito. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)
A photo taken in Montreal on Sept. 26, 2012, from an RCMP surveillance video presented as evidence at the Charbonneau commission, an inquiry looking into corruption and collusion in Quebec's construction industry. It allegedly shows Nick Rizzuto Sr., right, exchanging tens of thousands of dollars with Nicolo Milioto, left, former head of Mivela Construction Inc. Also at the table is alleged mafiosa Rocco Sollecito. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Quebec

Key figure known as 'Mr. Sidewalk' to take stand at Charbonneau inquiry Add to ...

For two days, he watched from the back of the Charbonneau inquiry as prosecutors tried to revive the memory of construction boss Joe Borsellino. But after Mr. Borsellino finishes his testimony on Monday, it is Nicolo Milioto’s turn in the hot seat.

Mr. Milioto’s name has come up frequently since the probe into the construction industry and municipal politics began. Witnesses have portrayed the man now known in Quebec as Mr. Sidewalk as a key intermediary between the construction industry, the mob, and political fundraisers. Until this week, however, the former president of Mivela Construction was never formally asked to explain his role.

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“He is at the heart of the collusion system between construction companies and he is the central link to the mafia,” said André Cédilot, co-author of the book Mafia Inc.

While the RCMP was keeping the Consenza Social Club under surveillance in 2004 and 2005, federal investigators saw Mr. Milioto entering the café where the Rizzuto clan held court 236 times. Videos showed Mr. Milioto handing stacks of cash to the late Nicolo Rizzuto and to mob boss Rocco Sollecito, who would then stuff the cash into their socks.

At the time, the police were investigating the Sicilian clan for drug trafficking and illegal betting and had never heard of Mr. Milioto. But the construction boss was well known in Montreal municipal circles. His former company, now controlled by a son-in-law, earned a sizable proportion of the sidewalk and street contracts from Montreal and its different boroughs. Between 2006 and 2009, Mivela’s contracts totalled $57.5-million, according to the 2011 report by Montreal’s auditor-general.

Lino Zambito, the former owner of Infrabec, testified during the Charbonneau inquiry that his construction company was forced to pay Mr. Milioto a 2.5-per-cent mafia tax on the value of the contracts awarded. He also contended that construction companies doing business in Montreal had to pay an additional 3-per-cent kickback on their contracts in 2005 and 2006. The money handed to Mr. Milioto allegedly served to fund mayor Gérald Tremblay’s municipal party, Union Montréal.

“We never knew who Mr. Milioto would have given the money to within the party, and that is something everybody is waiting to find out,” said Mr. Cédilot. But this retired investigative reporter is not setting his hopes too high, as he doubts this key witness will be very talkative.

Martin Dumont, a former political aide at Union Montréal, told the inquiry that Mr. Milioto invited him to a “bathroom break” and, once at the urinals, handed him $10,000 in an envelope. However, Mr. Dumont’s credibility has been questioned since his initial testimony after he contradicted himself on other facts.

Mr. Dumont also recounted he had a run-in in 2007 with Mr. Milioto after he inquired about the high price of a roadwork contract attributed to Mivela Construction. Mr. Milioto warned him: “You know, Martin, my sidewalk foundations are very thick and deep … you don’t want to end up in my sidewalk foundations.”

Mr. Milioto has a criminal record. In 2003, he attacked two municipal workers on strike and damaged a City of Montreal truck with an iron bar. He was found guilty of assault and battery but was later pardoned. He was also found guilty in 1993 of threatening to kill a citizen.

He is expected to appear in front of Madam Justice France Charbonneau on Monday.

Follow on Twitter: @S_Cousineau

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