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Canada Former city of Montreal general manager rejects corruption allegations

Robert Abdallah,director general, responds to allegations that surfaced at Quebec’s Charbonneau inquiry during a news conference Oct. 18, 2012 in Montreal.

Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Montreal's former top official is flatly rejecting allegations made before Quebec's corruption inquiry that he pocketed cash after interfering in a city contract.

Robert Abdallah, former general manager at Montreal city hall, called the testimony by former construction boss Lino Zambito false and defamatory.

Mr. Abdallah called a press conference to say he is ready to cooperate with "any competent body" to clear his name.

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Mr. Zambito's claims before the Charbonneau Commission, which is probing corruption and collusion in the construction industry, reverberated as far as Ottawa because Mr. Abdallah's name had surfaced as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's preferred candidate to head the Port of Montreal.

A Globe and Mail investigation found that in 2007, one of Harper's aides, press secretary Dimitri Soudas, had suggested Mr. Abdallah for the port job.

The Port authority resisted his candidacy and ended up choosing someone else.

Asked about the issue on Thursday, Mr. Abdallah said he met Mr. Soudas once or twice at the time but "we never talked about the Port of Montreal."

Mr. Abdallah said he applied for the port job directly.

"I met the board. They chose somebody else. For me, that's the end of the question. If somebody made some pressure, you have to ask the Prime Minister why."

Mr. Abdallah said Mr. Zambito's claims before the Charbonneau Commission were based on hearsay, and he provided extensive paperwork, obtained from the City of Montreal, in an attempt to clear himself of wrongdoing.

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Mr. Zambito testified that engineers contracted by the city forced him in 2005 to use sewer pipes supplied by a company named Tremca. He said the company was favoured by Mr. Abdallah, who would pocket the $300,000 difference that the pipes would cost.

Mr. Abdallah said it was not true, adding, "I will allow no one to put my integrity in doubt."

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