Laval mayoral candidate under police protection; claims former mayor offered cash
Published Tuesday, October 8, 2013 8:00AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 9, 2013 11:29AM EDT
A Laval mayoral candidate is under police protection after alerting authorities and the media to a plot involving former disgraced mayor Gilles Vaillancourt.
Claire Le Bel said she recently received a phone call from Vaillancourt in which he offered her not just political advice, but access to immense amounts of money.
According to Le Bel, former Laval mayor Vaillancourt, who resigned in disgrace following allegations of corruption and is currently accused of being a criminal mastermind who bilked taxpayers out of tens of millions of dollars, is still trying to maintain control of politics in Laval.
In a conversation she recorded and gave to police, Vaillancourt said an organization to control Laval is already in place.
Phone call led to personal meeting
Le Bel said that Vaillancourt made his initial approach in a phone call, and that she was shocked when she recognized his voice and what he was offering.
She decided instantly that she would play along with Vaillancourt but go directly to police with the information in the hopes it would aid the criminal case against the former mayor.
“I was uncomfortable and surprised,” said Le Bel.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Option Laval candidate Jean-Sebastien Di Fruscia said that Le Bel soon realized she might be putting her life in danger.
“He said, ‘I’m going to go to your house tonight and we can talk some business because he had some crucial information to give her,” said Di Fruscia. "What happened is that she accepted and he gave her a meeting at the Starbucks on St. Martin," said Di Fruscia.
"She panicked, realized she couldn't go, and she asked her assistant to go talk to Mr. Vaillancourt and tell him that she couldn't meet him, for obvious reasons, and then he insisted. He called back, say 45 minutes afterward, and said I'm going to come to your house tonight and we can talk, say talk some business, because he had some crucial information to give to her," Di Fruscia said.
Instead Le Bel agreed to have Vaillancourt meet her in the Option Laval offices, and the two met face-to-face with another witness present.
Le Bel recorded that conversation and gave the recording to authorities.
She would not provide the taped conversation to media outlets Tuesday due to the police investigation, but had provided the tape to Radio-Canada, who went public with the city Monday.
“He said, ‘I would be able to help you very discreetly with campaign finances,’” said Le Bel, adding that she didn’t go public with the news both because she didn’t want to interfere with any investigation and because she was afraid. Someone involved with gangsterism doesn’t usually act alone, she said Tuesday.
Campaign director roughed up on highway
Le Bel went public with the news about Vaillancourt's offer on Monday and later that day one of her political aides was roughed up while driving.
Reny Gagnon was driving on Highway 40 in Laval when another car came alongside and a passenger somehow caused a flat fire to Gagnon's car,
When Gagnon stopped, two other cars stopped as well, and two men exited their vehicles and attacked Gagnon. He was not badly hurt and is now recovering.
Le Bel is now under police aide while the Surete du Quebec investigate her recording and the attack on her aide.
She has not been threatened, but said the experience has been stressful.
“I no longer drive alone. My family life has changed,” she said.
One of Le Bel’s competitors in the upcoming race for Laval mayor said he believes the mayor should have handled the issue very differently, especially given the serious nature of the charges Vaillancourt is currently facing.
“Why did she agree to meet someone who is charged with being a gangster in her own political campaign. If someone had seen her, her own campaign would have been destroyed, so there are a lot of questions,” said mayoral candidate and former police officer Marc Demers.
Demers said it seems clear Vaillancourt is still seeking to control city hall.
“He must have a goal. He must have a purpose for doing so and taking all those chances, and that worries me,” he said.
Le Bel said she doesn’t know why Vaillancourt contacted her, adding that she was a member of his party, but was the first councilor to leave following his resignation.