One-time Quebec construction mogul Tony Accurso should receive a five-year prison term and be ordered to pay $1.6-million, the Crown prosecutor said Thursday.
Accurso’s lawyer, however, suggested his client receive a more lenient punishment and serve a suspended sentence in the community.
A jury on Monday found Accurso, 66, guilty on five charges including fraud and corruption after deliberating for seven days.
The case against him involved a municipal corruption scheme between 1996 and 2010 run by former Laval, Que., mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, who pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges and was sentenced to six years in prison.
Vaillancourt oversaw a kickback system in which construction companies would pay officials in exchange for public contracts.
Superior Court Justice James Brunton noted during the hearing that another co-accused in the case, Rene Mergl, who was also a construction entrepreneur, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Brunton said Mergl had played an important role in co-ordinating the collusion at one time in the city just north of Montreal.
“Going from 18 months to five years, can the court do that while respecting the principles of proportionality and parity (of sentences)?” Brunton asked prosecutor Richard Rougeau.
Rougeau said he understood the court’s concerns, but added that Accurso’s companies accounted for 25 per cent of the contracts handed out by the city of Laval.
The $1.6-million being sought by the Crown represents two per cent of the value of the contracts awarded to Accurso’s firms that authorities believe was paid in kickbacks to city officials.
Defence lawyer Marc Labelle said paying that amount will be difficult given his client’s precarious financial and legal situation.
Accurso has about $10-million left from the sale of his companies and is being sued by Laval for $21-million in addition to fines levied against him by federal and provincial authorities.
He also renounced $4.4 that was owed to him by Laval for contracts.
“It the sky doesn’t clear up, Mr. Accurso will go bankrupt, perhaps as early as in July ... He may be worth a lot, but he may also be worth nothing,” Labelle said.
At his trial, Accurso denied any involvement in the scheme and testified he was not aware of any such system in place.
The system of collusion and corruption was put in place by Vaillancourt and his client “did not create this system, it was imposed,” Labelle said, adding Accurso had no choice but comply.
Labelle noted that because of the size of his construction firms, no others could have legitimately competed with Accurso.
“If there had not been a system of mandatory collusion in that city, Mr. Accurso would have made a lot more money,” Labelle said.
Brunton is to render a sentence July 5.