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Construction magnate faces loss of builder’s licences

Montreal construction kingpin Tony Accurso could have his builder's licences revoked by the Quebec government, a move that would cost him millions in public-works contracts.

Under measures adopted last year to fight crime in the construction industry, companies convicted of an offence such as tax fraud lose their building permits and are barred from obtaining public contracts.

Louisbourg Construction Inc. and Simard-Beaudry Construction Ltd., owned by a holding company partly owned by Tony Accurso, pleaded guilty to tax evasion on Tuesday. The companies were ordered to pay back $4-million in taxes and face an equal amount in fines.

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The government agency that oversees the province's building code will determine how long to suspend or revoke Mr. Accurso's builder's licences.

"The law attacks those entrepreneurs who defraud the government, those who engage in collusion, those who misappropriate funds," Labour Minister Lise Thériault said in the National Assembly. "No one is above the law."

She said the government agency would likely come down with a ruling within 45 days. "Either his licence will be suspended or revoked. After that, if it's a suspension, it will be decided for how long. We could also impose restrictions on the licence," Ms. Thériault said.

Mr. Accurso's construction companies have been awarded several public contracts worth tens of millions of dollars in recent years under Premier Jean Charest's Liberal government. For instance, Simard-Beaudry Construction Inc. was granted an estimated $24-million excavation contract by the SNC-Lavalin consortium that is responsible for the $1.343-billion McGill University Health Centre project in Montreal.

"Can the minister confirm that Simard-Beaudry obtained a contract while it was part of a Ministry of Revenue investigation involving an important tax fraud?" Parti Québécois House Leader Stéphane Bédard asked in the National Assembly.

Revenue Minister Raymond Bachand explained in the that since the company had not yet been found guilty of any offence, there was no reason to deny it the right to obtain the contract.

And when the PQ argued that the suspension of Mr. Accurso's builder's licences could entail costly delays in the construction of the new mega-hospital, Health and Social Services Minister Yves Bolduc said there was nothing to worry about since the excavation work had mostly been completed.

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"There will be no delays in the project," Mr. Bolduc insisted.

The Opposition repeated its call for a full public inquiry into the construction industry, the awarding of government contracts and the financing of political parties.

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About the Author
Quebec City political correspondent

Rhéal Séguin is a journalist and political scientist. Born and educated in southern Ontario, he completed his undergraduate degree in political science at York University and a master's degree in political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal.Rhéal has practised journalism since 1978, first with Radio-Canada in radio and television and then with CBC Radio. More

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