Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum leaves SQ headquarters as he faces 14 criminal charges
Published Monday, June 17, 2013 7:14AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 18, 2013 7:22AM EDT
MONTREAL -- The mayor of Montreal left Surete du Quebec's headquarters in a taxi without comment amid a crush of reporters Monday afternoon, 10 hours after his arrest on 14 charges, including fraud.
The 14 crimes stem from real estate deals that took place between 2006 and 2011 in the borough of Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace.
Police arrested Mayor Michael Applebaum at his home at about 6 a.m., along with another politician and a senior bureaucrat as part of their ongoing crusade against corruption in municipal politics.
He was brought to the Surete du Quebec's headquarters soon after as was former city councillor Saulie Zajdel and Jean-Yves Bisson, a former director of permits in the CDN-NDG borough.
"Applebaum is facing 14 counts of conspiracy, fraud, breach of trust, and corruption," said Robert Lafreniere, the head of UPAC, the province’s permanent anti-corruption unit. "No one is above the law and you can't hide from the law."
Zajdel and Bisson are facing an additional nine charges. Zajdel, who worked in a ministerial office for the federal Tories on ethnic outreach, was charged with breach of trust, fraud and corruption.
Lafreniere said the crimes involve real estate deals from 2006 to 2011, the time when Applebaum was the borough mayor for CDN-NDG.
When asked if he benefitted personally from the alleged crimes, Lafreniere said, "The mayor is charged with 14 charges -- so we can say that."
UPAC did not elaborate which pieces of property were involved, only pointing out that their investigation of Applebaum made significant headway in March.
At that time, there were several investigative reports into suspicious land deals made in the borough, and a senior bureaucrat in the CDN-NDG permits bureau committed suicide after being questioned by police.
"The message is clear: all actions which compromise the integrity of the state are unacceptable," Lafreniere said, appearing alongside UPAC squad captain Andre Boulanger.
They said 20 officers have taken part in the investigation, and that more people could be arrested in the coming days.
Arrest warrants filed in court identify several people who allegedly conspired in a fraud plot with Applebaum. They are Hugo Tremblay, Robert Stein, Anthony Keeler, Rosaire Sauriol, Claude Asselin and Patrice Laporte. None has been arrested so far.
Sauriol, Asselin and Laporte were all senior executives with engineering consultation firm Dessau during the period of the allegations filed in the court documents.
Applebaum was elected interim mayor of Montreal seven months ago, after campaigning on a promise to clean up city hall.
Applebaum, who is Montreal's first Anglophone mayor in 100 years, has already said he will not run in the upcoming municipal election set for November.
He is expected to speak to hold a news conference Tuesday, according to Harout Chitilian, the speaker of Montreal city council.
Applebaum is free until a court appearance, which will likely take place in October.
Police did not say on Monday which projects were specifically being investigated, but there are two large land-swap deals between 2006 and 2011 that have already come under suspicion.
In March there were several investigative journalism reports about a high-rise seniors' residence at the corner of Cote St. Luc Rd. and Decarie Blvd. Developer Lee Lalli purchased the land in 2003 for $1.85 million, and in 2006 and 2007 – after the lot was split into two and rezoned – he sold it for a total of $6 million.
In March, Applebaum said that he had nothing to do with the rezoning of the land.
The same week police questioned the director of the CDN-NDG permits division, Robert Rousseau, about a condo development on Upper Lachine Rd. run by former construction magnate Tony Magi, who is alleged to have Mafia ties. Rousseau later committed suicide.
Despite city and borough codes that above ground electrical wires were dangerous, in 2008 the borough approved an exemption for the condo project allowing hydro poles to be installed in the area. That move saved Construction FTM Inc. about $1 million.
While Applebaum repeatedly said he had no knowledge of the arrangement, documents show his name on letters between the borough's director Gaetan Rainville and Serge Boileau, the president of the Electrical Services Commission.
Applebaum was first elected to city council in 1994 and continued to work part-time as a realtor for Royal LePage until January 2009 when former mayor Gerald Tremblay named him to the city's executive committee.
He also oversaw the workings of the borough's zoning committee (CCU), which operated under relative secrecy, something that generated complaints from residents and political activists who worried about a conflict of interest.
Zajdel served city for years
Police also arrested well-known Montreal politician Saulie Zajdel on Monday.
Zajdel was a city of Montreal councillor for more than 20 years with both the Vision Montreal and Union Montreal parties.
In 2011 he ran, unsuccessfully, as a Conservative MP candidate in the Mount Royal riding. However after losing he was hired by the Conservative party as a 'shadow MP' for the riding.
He is now facing four charges including breach of trust, fraud, corruption and conspiracy.
Bisson worked in the permits division for the CDN-NDG borough. He is charged with fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust.
Arrest warrants for Applebaum, Zajdel and Bisson: