Zambito drops stunning allegations of illegal political financing
Published Tuesday, October 9, 2012 6:03PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 9, 2012 8:35PM EDT
Lino Zambito continues to drop bombshells.
Shady dealings with former Quebec cabinet ministers happened more than once, the former construction boss testified about at the Charbonneau commission. Much of the information was lifted Tuesday after being under a publication ban late last week.
Zambito told the inquiry into corruption in the construction industry in Quebec that he had strange encounters with former Liberal labour minister David Whissell and deputy prime minister Nathalie Normandeau.
Zambito alleges that he needed Whissell’s help with government business, and what he got instead was a phone call from Whissell's chief fundraiser, a man named Christian Coté.
The former construction boss was told that if he gave $50,000 cash to the Whissell campaign fund, his business problem would be fixed.
Zambito testified that he was unsure of the plan, because it was a large sum of money, but said that he asked long-time Liberal strategist Pierre Bibeau to intervene.
Zambito also testified that he saw Bibeau make a call to Whissell's office, and afterward Zambito was told he'd get the government help he was looking for, without spending the $50 000 cash contribution.
An excited Zambito thanked Bibeau, and asked if there was anything he could offer in return, to which Zambito said he was told, "I'll get back to you regarding favours."
Zambito said he was barely scratching the surface of political financing at the provincial level, and soon understood that giving money to politicians was good for business.
He said he then tried with other ministers.
On Jan. 31, 2008, Zambito organized a fundraising dinner in Laval for former deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau, where he invited a number of friends from the construction and engineering world.
The dinner cost $10,000 each, but since the legal limit for donations is $3000, attendees were told to bring four cheques of $2500 each, signed by friends and family.
The dinner raised $110,000 for the Liberal party, testified Zambito, yet he said when the activity appeared in the party’s official statement, the books only showed $77,000, with an admission price suddenly reduced to $1000 per head.
Zambito said he never found out what the Liberal party did with the missing $33,000.
Zambito said he wasn't done seeking the attention of Normandeau, sending her flowers on her birthday and inviting her to his private box at the Bell Centre for a Celine Dion concert.
Normandeau would later be criticized for accepting the VIP tickets.
The minister, however, wanted more from Zambito, asking and receiving a pair of tickets for a Madonna concert that same year.
Zambito said the concert was uneventful, save for a visit in the private box by another Liberal cabinet minister: Michelle Courchesne.
Courchesne was accompanied to the concert by Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, whose home, as well as Laval city hall, was raided last week by Quebec's anti-corruption squad.
Vaillancourt has denied any wrongdoing.
Testimony continues Wednesday.