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Quebec corruption probe queries credibility of key witness

Laval Chief of Police Jean-Pierre Gariepy says he never saw credible evidence linking city officials to illegal activities.


The much-anticipated testimony of a key witness at Quebec's corruption inquiry was abruptly cancelled Wednesday after inquiry counsel declared he could no longer be trusted.

Sonia LeBel, counsel for the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption in Quebec's construction contracting, announced the former city manager of Laval, Quebec's third-largest city, would no longer appear.

"At 9:15 a.m. we received information that seriously put into question the credibility of the next witness, Gaétan Turbide," Ms. LeBel said in a brief statement. She offered no further details.

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The inquiry has heard from several spectacular and co-operative witnesses who have detailed a system of bid fixing, illegal political financing, and kickbacks in a long list of municipalities in the Montreal region. Several of the witnesses have also had questions raised about their credibility, but this is the first time testimony has been cancelled at the last minute over a question of reliability.

Doubts over Mr. Turbide's credibility could have ripples far beyond the commission. Last week, 37 people, including former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, were arrested and charged with corruption and gangsterism in the most spectacular bust yet by the province's anti-corruption squad.

Mr. Turbide was named along with four others as a co-conspirator in a system of kickbacks that ran for years, however the five men were not charged. Police said the men were co-operating with investigators to provide evidence in the criminal cases.

It's not clear how the Charbonneau commission's questions over Mr. Turbide's credibility could affect the court case.

Jean Roberge, Mr. Turbide's longtime deputy and another unindicted co-conspirator named in the criminal case, is now scheduled to testify Wednesday afternoon.

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