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Tony Accurso loses bid to avoid testifying in Quebec corruption inquiry

Quebec construction magnate Tony Accurso leaves the Quebec Provincial Police headquarters in Montreal on April 17, 2012.

PAUL CHIASSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the arguments of a high-profile Quebec construction boss who was trying to avoid testifying at the province's corruption probe.

Tony Accurso, a dominant name at the Charbonneau hearings scrutinizing the troubled construction industry, has been fighting tooth-and-nail for a year to pre-empt his appearance before the inquiry.

But he exhausted his last legal option on Friday when the country's top court declined to hear his arguments.

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As a result, he is set to become one of the commission's most anticipated witnesses, with testimony scheduled to begin on Sept. 2.

Mr. Accurso, whose construction empire took in hundreds of millions of dollars in public works contracts through the years, had argued that his appearance before the hearings would jeopardize his right to a fair trial in forthcoming criminal cases.

Mr. Accurso faces multiple fraud and corruption-related charges involving municipal contracts.

The high court gave no reason for refusing to hear Mr. Accurso's appeal, writing simply that it was dismissing the case with costs.

This is hardly the end of Mr. Accurso's legal woes. Aside from fraud and corruption allegations, Revenu Québec laid hundreds of charges of tax fraud against the entrepreneur last year after an investigation dubbed Project Touch, a reference to Mr. Accurso's infamous yacht, the Touch.

The yacht has had a recurring role at the Charbonneau commission, emerging in testimony as a destination for powerful figures from Quebec's political, business and organized labour world.

The provincial corruption hearings, now on summer recess, resume Aug. 25. Mr. Accurso could still submit a request to be heard behind closed doors to avoid testifying publicly.

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