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Montreal’s mayor refutes suggestions he has Mafia ties

Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum, left, and Montreal chief of police Marc Parent speak at a news conference on Jan. 11, 2013, where they announced the formation of a new anti-corruption unit. Mr. Applebaum has since denied allegations that he has ties to the Mafia.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Montreal's interim mayor says the fact he attended an event at a restaurant that was once popular with members of the city's underworld doesn't mean he's tied to the Mob.

"I am not afraid of the Mafia, I don't hang out with the Mafia and I do not know the Mafia," Michael Applebaum told a news conference Tuesday.

"They are not friends of mine."

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Mr. Applebaum has been the subject of rumours and allegations in the last few days – with the latest involving his visit to a Montreal restaurant for a fundraiser a decade ago.

The restaurant was frequented by members of Montreal's Mafia.

Mr. Applebaum said the 2003 fundraiser was perfectly legal and was organized by the Union Montreal party at a time when he was simply a city councillor responding to a party request to attend.

The event was held at La Cantina, an Italian eatery. A prominent member of the Mob, Federico del Peschio, 59, was shot and killed in 2009 outside the establishment, which he owned.

Mr. Applebaum described himself as a man of integrity and transparency who has nothing to hide.

The mayor insisted there was nothing scandalous about his visit to the eatery and he hasn't been there in recent years.

It was the second time in less than a week that Applebaum convened journalists to address allegations.

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Last Friday, he called an end-of-day news conference to address reports he was being investigated by Quebec's Charbonneau Commission, which is looking into corruption within the construction industry.

Mr. Applebaum was moved to deny newspaper reports he was being investigated for real-estate deals conducted while he was mayor of Montreal's largest borough.

On Tuesday, he reiterated he is not being investigated and insisted he is not being targeted.

"In my role as an elected official, the Charbonneau Commission decided to meet with me ... we discussed many, many dossiers," Mr. Applebaum said.

"If they want to invite me, it's a pleasure to meet with them and I will shed light on any dossiers they may have and will respond to their questions."

He accused enemies he has picked up over 18 years in municipal politics of attacking his attempts to change the system at city hall.

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He said he has never given or received kickbacks or been involved in any cases of preferential treatment.

"For there to be a scandal, there has to be a scandal," Mr. Applebaum said. "And there is no scandal here."

Richard Bergeron, one opposition leader at city hall, said he believes Montreal remains governable and the parties remain committed to the coalition formed in the wake of the departure of former mayor Gerald Tremblay.

But Mr. Bergeron said he is still concerned.

"I'm starting to worry about the evolution of the situation concerning Mr. Applebaum," he told reporters. "I've called for a quiet transition to the next election (in November) ... but I begin to worry if it will be possible."

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