Charbonneau finally pries testimony out of tight-lipped Mr. Sidewalk
Published Thursday, February 21, 2013 10:35AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 22, 2013 7:55AM EST
MONTREAL—Nicolo Milioto claims he never bribed anyone at city hall, but Quebec’s Charbonneau Commission clearly didn't believe him.
“Do you know how many people said things about you; which you claim aren't true?” asked one of the counsels in Quebec’s anti-corruption inquiry.
Milioto swears he's telling the truth. His truth.
On Thursday, he was asked about Apex, the company that tried for years to sell its PVC pipes to Montreal. The city agreed to use the pipes because they're more durable than the cast-iron ones it currently uses. But the commission heard last fall the deal mysteriously fell apart when the company refused to pay a $150 000 bribe to Milioto. Hogwash, claims the contractor.
“He made it up!” responded the former construction boss.
That was the tipping point for co-chair Renaud Lachance.
“So you're this total nice guy, you do favours for everyone and you ask nothing in return, you respect everyone?” asked the man sitting to Justice France Charbonneau’s right.
“Yet everyone say things about you on television, they must have dreamt it all, and when they have a problem with the government, it's against you. What have; they done to you? Because four people are contradicting you.”
Milioto also raised his tone when the topic of Martin Dumont was brought up. He is the discredited campaign manager who claimed Milioto forced him to take cash donations in a bathroom—and later threatened to bury him underneath his sidewalks.
“I don't know Mr. Dumont, I never went in his office, I swear to God I don't know who Mr. Dumont is. Either he's confusing me with someone else, or he's a professional liar!” Milioto responded.
And with that, Milioto ended one of the most fascinating testimonies the commission has heard.
The contractor was always a reluctant witness at the Commission. Earlier in the day, he admitted he had a list of every worksite supervisor working for the city of Montreal, but denied it was use to bribe city employees.
Milioto is the former owner of Mivela Construction and for years he acted as a go between to deliver cash payments for the Mafia—although Milioto says he has no idea what the Mafia is, nor why people always asked him to bring tens of thousands of dollars to Mafia leaders.
On Thursday, after several days of testifying, the Commission asked Milioto to explain how his company won and worked on contracts for the city of Montreal.
Milioto told the commission that as company owner his engineers dealt with city supervisors if contracts had to be changed, and that it was not something he ever did himself, yet he let slip that he had a list of every single supervisor working for the city.
Charbonneau ordered him to produce that list for the inquiry.
"It's all in Italian, and many names have been erased," protested Milioto, but the woman leading the commission said he must bring it forward—without erasing any other names.
Meanwhile, the commission wanted to know more about Milioto's relationship with now disgraced former city engineer Luc Leclerc.
Last November, Luclerc said Milioto was part of a group of conspirators who paid him more than half a million dollars in bribes and that Milioto, whose company dominated sidewalk work in the city, also tried to fix a collusion system in the landscaping business for public parks.
Milioto said he frequently bought lunch for engineers as a way to speed up payments to his company, and also said he once sent a truckload of cement to Leclerc's home as a gesture of goodwill—but said that was not a bribe.
"It's not enough to buy somebody off," said Milioto.
Milioto, known as Mr. Sidewalk, said he did give city engineers bottles of wine, dinner, or tickets to golf tournaments, but said that was solely done out of gratitude, or a way to speed up payment once contracts were completed.
That's when the commission presented phone records indicating Luclerc phoned Milioto many times when contracts were being tendered.
Chief counsel Sonia Lebel suggested Leclerc was phoning because he wanted a bribe, and Milioto took offence.
"You are speaking about envelopes. There is no need to call me 20 times to receive an envelope. Logically, I mean you, you are extrapolating things. If an engineer calls me, if he calls me it's to receive an envelope. That's not what I necessarily said," Milioto testified.
"It's what you said two minutes ago," said Lebel.
"You said he calls me to ask for an envelope, because he calls me ten times. That's what you said and I find that unacceptable Madame," retorted Milioto.
CTV Montreal reporter Stephane Giroux said despite Milioto's lack of forthright answers, his testimony was still valuable.
"Their goal is to expose [members of the construction industry] and show the whole province who these people are and what they control," said Giroux.
"Because mobsters as you know, usually like to work in dark. They don't like to see their names and faces spread all over the papers, so that has a lot to do with it."