MONTREAL — The legal saga of the Faubourg Reluctantly, in Montreal, was partially concluded, Wednesday, by the acquittal of Frank Zampino, Paolo Catania, and four co-accused in a case of residential project.
The ex-president of the executive committee of the City of Montreal, in the administration of Gérald Tremblay, and the construction contractor, were accused of fraud, breach of trust and conspiracy, in this folder is linked to a real estate project in the east of the metropolis.
The other four accused who have been acquitted — Martin D’aoust, André Fortin, Pasquale Fedele and Patrice Pascale — were employees of Construction Frank Catania ; they faced counts of fraud and conspiracy. The six co-accused were shaking hands at the end of the trial, Wednesday, at the palais de justice of Montreal.
The judge Yvan Poulin, of the Court of Québec concluded that the Crown’s evidence, though voluminous, was largely circumstantial, sometimes based on conjecture and assumptions.
“The court reiterates that a verdict in a criminal matter must be based on solid and tangible facts rather than on possibilities, probabilities, or impressions,” recalled the judge Poulin, at the conclusion of his judgment, 88 pages. “The public prosecutor must establish the guilt of each accused beyond a reasonable doubt. In the present case, the evidence does not conclude in this sense.”
At its exit from the courtroom, on Wednesday, the Crown prosecutor Nicole Martineau has argued that the prosecution had presented “a proof full and sufficient” in this trial. “We take note of the judgment, we will take the time to evaluate it and we’ll see for the rest of the things […] in order to determine whether or not to bring a case in appeal,” she said.
Me Martineau has also shown that the cause of Bernard Trépanier must come back before the court on may 11.
Investigation of UPAC
The six men had been charged in may 2012 following an investigation by the Unité permanente anticorruption (UPAC), but the procedures had stretched over the years and after multiple requests of the defence. The matter had been brought to the attention of the authorities due to the transactions surrounding the field of real estate project in Faubourg Contrecoeur.
This land, which belonged to the City, was sold in 2007 by the housing Corporation and development of Montreal to Construction Frank Catania for the sum of $ 19 million. The price had, however, been reduced by the result of more than $ 14 million, in particular because of the decontamination costs required to build housing. The prosecution had argued at trial that the transaction had been faked and that Frank Zampino had used its influence at city hall to accommodate Paolo Catania.
Another accused, Daniel Gauthier, who headed a firm of urban planners, had admitted his guilt in February 2016 to charges of fraud and conspiracy, for fraud in the same case. For his part, Bernard Trépanier, former collector of the funds of the party of mayor Gérald Tremblay, Union Montreal, must undergo a separate trial, it would be cancer. Finally, a ninth accused in this case, Martial Fillion, former director-general of the Société d’habitation de Montreal, died in 2013 before undergoing his trial.
The trial of the six men acquitted on Wednesday by the judge Poulin was opened in February 2016, and was spread over two years, with more than 60 witnesses called to the bar, and 600 pages of documents filed. The case had also been under a magnifying glass by the Charbonneau commission, which is investigating corruption and collusion in the construction industry.
Counsel for Mr. Zampino, Isabel J. Schurman, said at the end of the hearing, Wednesday, that “to defend in a case as publicized as represented immense stress for the family” of this man who has always proclaimed his innocence for six years. “He is relieved, but he is especially grateful to the members of his family for their unwavering support,” she said.
Mr. Zampino, who has been chairman of the executive committee of the City of Montreal from 2002 to 2008, has not ended with the justice system. He was arrested along with seven other persons, in September last, by agents of the UPAC. Investigators maintain that Mr. Zampino has been involved in a vast scheme of discount related to contracts, especially in engineering, granted by the City from 2001 to 2009.