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Construction magnate Tony Accurso is seen on an image taken off a television monitor at the Charbonneau inquiry looking into corruption in the Quebec construction industry Wednesday, September 3, 2014 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Construction magnate Tony Accurso is seen on an image taken off a television monitor at the Charbonneau inquiry looking into corruption in the Quebec construction industry Wednesday, September 3, 2014 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Accurso acknowledges ties with members of Mafia, Quebec inquiry hears Add to ...

Antonio Accurso acknowledged having had ties with senior members of the Mafia in Montreal, describing Vito Rizzuto and his son Nick – both deceased – as “minor contacts” in his wide business network.

In a second day of testimony, the Charbonneau Commission asked Mr. Accurso to describe his ties to a number of people, including union officials and other business leaders. When he was asked how he would describe his relation with the Rizzutos, he called them “minor contacts.” He added that he had never met the elder Nicolo Rizzuto, who was murdered in his own home in 2010.

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The lead Commission counsel, Sonia LeBel, did not push further on this matter and will likely come back to the topic in the course of her examination. In previous testimony, the inquiry heard that Vito Rizzuto, who has died of cancer, once arbitrated a business dispute involving Mr. Accurso.

To this point, the Commission has focussed most of its energies on Mr. Accurso’s close friendship with senior members of the province’s union movement.

Mr. Accurso, 62, said the former head of the Quebec Federation of Labour, Louis Laberge, was his “spiritual father.” He added the former head of the QFL’s construction branch, Jean Lavallée, was “like a brother” to him. He confirmed that he also considered another former president of the QFL, Michel Arsenault, as “a friend.”

However, Mr. Accurso denied that he derived any advantages from his close ties to officials at the QFL, whether in the form of better workers, fewer slowdowns on his construction sites or a privileged access to the union’s financing arm, called the Solidarity Fund.

“Did I get benefits? No,” Mr. Accurso said under questioning.

He added that union leaders were “humans” who simply wanted to ensure that their workers plied their trade on safe construction sites. “They are not monsters,” Mr. Accurso said.

However, he explained how various unions injected funds in his businesses over the years, including after a series of media stories and police investigations affected his bottom line, starting in 2009. Mr. Accurso said that his bank called back its loans over the issue of “reputational risk,” and that he then took a $5-million loan, at a rate of 10 per cent, from a union representing electricians.

In his first day of testimony on Tuesday, Mr. Accurso described his business career, starting as a six-year-old in his father’s firm until his fast-paced expansion at the head of a construction empire in the 1990s and 2000s.

There were testier exchanges between Mr. Accurso and Ms. LeBel on Wednesday over allegations that he “played dirty” in his dealings with his business rivals, using his close ties to the QFL to try and destroy his competitors. The Commission is trying to portray Mr. Accurso as a businessman who wanted to “control everything” in Quebec’s construction industry.

However, when the Commission heard a wiretap in which a rival businessman condemned his practices, Mr. Accurso did not flinch.

“He was drunk,” Mr. Accurso said of his rival Eugène Arsenault, stating that the late-evening conversation was simply the ramblings of someone “who had too much to drink.”

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