October 22, 2012
Mafia boss took Caribbean trip with city engineers, inquiry told
By Brian Daly, QMI Agency
MONTREAL - Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto had direct access to City Hall through two engineers who played golf with him at a Caribbean resort, a public inquiry heard Monday.
Retired engineer Gilles Surprenant also intensified a political firestorm by claiming a colleague told him the city's executive committee took a 3% cut off of all excavation contracts.
Surprenant, a longtime city planner, has already admitted to inflating contracts for a cartel of contractors who paid him $600,000 in bribes from 1990 to 2009.
He told the Charbonneau Commission that contractor Tony Conte invited him and fellow engineer Luc Leclerc to the Dominican Republic to play a week of golf in 1996 or 1997.
When the bureaucrats asked Conte about the identity of the fourth partner, he refused to say, but the partner's identity became clear prior to the flight.
"We got to the airport, we got a surprise, we saw Mr. Rizzuto," Surprenant told the inquiry.
"He was alone. All I can say is that it ... surprised us. We didn't really expect to see Mr. Rizzuto there."
He said they four men flew down to a resort in or near Punta Cana and spent a week playing golf, all paid for by Conte.
The retired bureaucrat insists he didn't discuss business with Montreal's "Teflon Don."
But he corroborated earlier testimony by contractor Lino Zambito, who said the Rizzuto crime family received a 2.5% cut from city excavation contracts.
Surprenant recalled a second 2002 golf date with Rizzuto, Leclerc and Conte at Le Mirage golf club in Terrebonne, Que., near Montreal.
"I remember very well that on the final hole, Mr. Rizzuto made a putt of about 75 feet to win the round," the former engineer said.
"Then, after that, we had to pay him the bet that we had made. Mr. Leclerc and I paid each member of the (Rizzuto) team $25."
Surprenant also claimed construction contractors had easy access to Montreal's planning and inspection departments as far back as the 1970s.
He joined the city's engineering department in 1976, and said the public works director ran an annual golf tournament where contractors would schmooze public officials with gifts.
The event lasted until at least 2007, Surprenant said.
The engineer was nicknamed "Mr. GST" because of the 1% cut Zambito says the bureaucrat took from bid-rigged contracts after he inflated them.