|Robert Lafreniere, Dec. 19, 2012. (QMI Agency/JOCELYN MALETTE)
MONTREAL - It's been a busy year at Quebec's UPAC anti-corruption unit, which bounced back following allegations it was moving too slowly to catch big fish.
UPAC arrested 49 people in 2012, including two mayors, on 177 charges while busting influence-peddling and kickback scams across the province.
At a news conference Wednesday, UPAC boss Robert Lafreniere credited "the invaluable contribution of citizens, without whom we couldn't have obtained such results."
Former Quebec premier Jean Charest created UPAC two years ago following a litany of allegations of kickbacks, influence peddling and illicit party financing that touched all three levels of government and even his Liberal party.
The biggest fish caught so far are Richard Marcotte, former mayor of the Montreal suburb of Mascouche, and Frank Zampino, former right-hand man to ex-Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay. Both are charged in alleged fraud scams.
UPAC also arrested Quebec's biggest construction magnate, Tony Accurso, who has since left the company he ran for 30 years.
The ex-premier's former family minister, Tony Tomassi, was nabbed late last year for allegedly using a contractor's credit card as his personal spending account.
UPAC also raided the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and arrested former engineering executive Pierre Duhaime.
Police suspect SNC-Lavalin, which Duhaime ran until March, might have paid $22 million to land the $1.3 billion contract to build the MUHC superhospital in the city's west end.
UPAC's raids also chased two big-city mayors out of office.
Montreal's mayor quit amid corruption allegations and Gilles Vaillancourt, mayor of suburban Laval, Que., also quit after several police raids on his home.