QUEBEC - Quebec's anti-corruption czar suggests this week's crackdown in a small city near Montreal is just the tip of the iceberg and could lead to more arrests.
Robert Lafreniere announced Thursday that his provincial anti-corruption squad currently has 17 separate investigations underway.
Lafreniere told legislative hearings that the majority of the ongoing investigations are being led by the provincial police, while four are being led by Quebec's revenue agency.
New charges might not be far off. Four files have already been handed over to the province's director of criminal prosecutions, he said.
Lafreniere's anti-corruption unit had its first major bust this week, arresting 14 people including construction magnate Tony Accurso. It also stopped politically connected players in an alleged scheme involving kickbacks and bribes in exchange for advantages in the awarding of public-works contracts.
The accused in that case are due back in court in June.
Lafreniere said the new charges could have a snowball effect. Some commentators have already likened the arrests to a crack in the armour of a corrupt system, which has been the focus of more than two years of scandal in the province.
The dragnet, he said, will put pressure on witnesses to start talking.
"This loosens tongues," Lafreniere said.
"It incites citizens — whom we really need to come forward with information — to meet with us, to tell us things. This has a major impact for us."