|Robert Abdallah. (QMI Agency/ALAIN DECARIE)
MONTREAL - A onetime federal appointee to the Port of Montreal was accused Tuesday of accepting kickbacks when he was this city's top bureaucrat.
Robert Abdallah, city manager until 2006, skimmed money from a sewer contract in east-end Montreal, contractor Lino Zambito told a public inquiry.
In his third day of explosive testimony about alleged widespread corruption, Zambito said Abdallah shoehorned a firm called Tremca into the $10 million sewer deal.
Zambito said he, Tremca and Abdallah conspired to inflate the contract's value by $500,000. Zambito said an engineer who was also a middleman explained the scheme during a meeting at a restaurant.
"(He said) 'if you want the project to happen, the pipes have to be bought at Tremca at a predetermined price (and) we'll compensate you,'" said Zambito. "(He said) 'the difference of $300,000 is the amount that the Tremca people "¦ must give to Mr. Abdallah.'"
Abdallah told QMI Agency Tuesday that Zambito's allegations are "completely false and defamatory."
"I am not only furious but I'm overcome with anger in the face of these falsehoods," he said in a statement.
"I'm analyzing all of my options, with my lawyers, to establish my reputation."
The federal government tabbed Abdallah last year to take over as chief executive of the Montreal Port Authority.
The Bloc Quebecois said two Quebec businessmen were heard discussing an unspecified reward if the Conservative government and Dimitri Soudas, then a senior advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, helped Abdallah secure the appointment.
Police investigated a Youtube video of the purported conversation, Harper said the allegations were false and Abdallah never got the job.
Lino Zambito was the first witness at the Charbonneau inquiry to link construction firms, the Mafia and public officials.
Last week the businessman said the Rizzuto crime family received a 2.5% kickback from construction firms. The inquiry showed surveillance footage in which entrepreneurs handed cash to now-deceased family patriarch, Nick Rizzuto Sr., who stuffed the bills into his socks.
On Monday Zambito said a 3% cut from city contracts went directly to Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay's party, Union Montreal.