Montreal’s new mayor says the integration of the City of Montreal’s anti-corruption squad into the much larger provincial unit is bad news for organized crime.
The provincial squad, which goes by the name UPAC, will gain 20 members as the municipal task force is rolled into it.
“We are building an alliance which is very bad news for organized crime and people who try to play the system,” Mayor Denis Coderre told reporters at a city hall news conference on Tuesday.
Coderre was accompanied by Quebec Public Security Minister Stephane Bergeron and Jean-Francois Lisée, the Quebec cabinet minister responsible for Montreal.
The Montreal mayor said the merger of the two groups will allow for better results and less overlap.
“We are sending a clear message: everyone will be touched, not just politicians, [but] employees and enterprises,” Coderre said.
The Public Security Minister said the integration will assure an even greater distance between politicians and police at the operational level.
“It’s desirable in a state of law in a democracy that politicians do not exercise any control on police,” Bergeron said. “We want to be sure there will be a [Great Wall] of China.”
Richard Bergeron, the leader of Projet Montreal, a municipal opposition party, complained that Montrealers will still have to pay for the city’s anti-corruption squad even though it’s being integrated.
“If the [Quebec] government announced that they would assume the costs, I would have nothing to say,” he told reporters.
The Montreal unit, known as EPIM, was created last January by then-mayor Michael Applebaum to root out collusion at city hall.
Applebaum later stepped down after being arrested on corruption-related charges.
Richard Bergeron noted that the Montreal squad was created in the morning by Applebaum and, in the afternoon, the former mayor was visited by UPAC.
He also said he didn’t know what the city squad had accomplished during its year of its existence.
“But I figure that they are professional and they did a good job – we paid for it,” Richard Bergeron added.
Earlier in the day, UPAC said it raided the home of the Suzanne Bibeau, whose brother Marc Bibeau used to be a key fundraiser for the Quebec Liberal Party.
The anti-corruption unit says search warrants were carried out north of Montreal but that no arrests are planned.
This latest raid is believed to be connected with another police operation that took place last month.
Two construction companies belonging to the Bibeau family were targeted in those three raids.
Marc Bibeau, who had close links to former premier Jean Charest, was one of the administrators.
About 70 officers took part in the November raids, which involved firms in St-Eustache and Laval, north of Montreal.
Investigators questioned 15 people and also seized documents and computers.
Also on Tuesday, Quebec’s corruption inquiry ended its 2013 public hearings after focusing on several themes, including corruption in the construction industry, illegal political financing and union infiltration by organized crime.
Inquiry chair France Charbonneau said Tuesday the probe will continue studying organized crime in the construction industry in January before switching to other topics of interest.
The public hearings resume Jan. 13.