A few of the construction magnates head up companies that have received, between them, hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from municipal governments.
A Montreal police detective showed surveillance video of the entrepreneurs meeting with high-ranking members of the Rizzuto clan and exchanging and counting cash — all at the former Consenza Social Club in Montreal.
And he explained why those videotaped scenes are no laughing matter: They're part of a monumental scam that drives up the price of construction, he testified.
Some of the video shows the late Nicolo Rizzuto, the onetime don of Canada's most powerful crime family, stuffing cash into his socks.
Another video shows a Christmas party attended by most of the Rizzuto clan's top figures as well as at least four construction-industry bigwigs. The businessmen shake hands with and cheek-kiss the Mob bosses, converse with them, and in some cases duck into to a back room to exchange wads of cash.
The 'middle man'
Eric Vecchio, a Montreal police detective working with the Charbonneau commission inquiry, said the video demonstrates that one member of the Rizzuto hierarchy, Rocco Sollecito, was in charge of dealing with construction cash.
Vecchio further said that construction tycoon Nicolo Milioto, seen at the Consenza 236 times over the span of two years, acted as a "middle man" between the construction industry and the once-dominant Rizzuto clan.
The police detective said another scene caught on tape shows Milioto coming into the back room, handing over a stack of cash to Sollecito and leaving. Then Rizzuto chieftans Paolo Renda and Francesco Arcadi enter and Sollecito splits the cash between them. Renda, considered the consigliere of the Rizzuto family, has been missing since 2010. Arcadi is in prison after pleading guilty to overseeing drug smuggling and illegal gambling. Nicolo Rizzuto was shot dead by a sniper in 2010.
Yet another segment that was shown on Wednesday shows, according to Vecchio, Arcadi exchanging cash in the back room with businessman Domenico Arcuri (watch it here). Arcuri was a shareholder in Construction DAMC, formerly Construction Mirabeau, until August. His former business partners include the heads of another company called CSF Paving.
Vecchio identified three other major figures in Montreal-area construction — Lino Zambito, Enrico (Rick) Andreoli and Paolo Catania — as those seen mixing with Mob bosses at the Christmas party. Zambito, of Infrabec Construction, greets Mob man Sollecito and chats with consigliere Renda. Andreoli talks with them as well, and later has a private backroom meeting with Renda. Catania is seen on the video greeting Renda.
The stacks of money being stuffed into Nicolo Rizzuto's socks came from players in an industry that, according to Vecchio, would see its costs ramped up by as much as 30 per cent because of the "tax" imposed by the Mafia.
"It was effectively a tax — a cut that was given to make sure things went well," said Vecchio, who described the cut as a way to get protection, to buy peace or gain the influence of certain individuals.
"It's clear the people who were paying this tax believed this — or they wouldn't be paying it."
The Mob's rates have decreased, he said. The fees being charged now are half what they were a few years ago, when the Rizzutos were still at the height of their power, he said.
RCMP did nothing with video
The videos were shot during Operation Colisée, a five-year investigation that culminated with mass arrests in 2006 in the largest sweep against the Italian Mafia in Canadian history.
But the RCMP says it never used the evidence gathered on the videos — because it wasn't pertinent to its drug investigation. The Mounties fought in court, unsuccessfully, to keep from sharing the evidence at the public inquiry.
The construction entrepreneurs said to be caught on the tapes have all received significant contracts from the City of Montreal.
- Catania's Catcan Enterprises, a civil engineering firm, has along with its partner companies received $154.6 million in contracts from the City of Montreal since 2006.
- Arcuri's Construction Mirabeau (now Construction DAMC) got $24 million in city contracts over the last 10 years, mostly for sewer work. CSF Paving obtained tens of millions of dollars in municipal work.
- Milioto is the former president of Mivela Construction, one of the top 10 recipients of City of Montreal contracts since 2006, having bagged at least $60.7 million in taxpayer-funded work.
- Zambito's Infrabec Construction, which declared bankruptcy in 2011, has obtained $68.7 million in public-works contracts from Montreal and Laval since 2006.
- Andreoli's Canbec Construction Inc. has received at least $7.2 million in deals, largely for snow removal.
Zambito was arrested in 2011 and Catania in May, and both face criminal charges stemming from the awarding of public contracts. Arcuri "has tight links with the Rizzuto family" and hasn't been seen in Montreal since August, Det. Vecchio said. Businesses linked to Arcuri have been firebombed six times since Aug. 17.
In all, the RCMP intercepted 64,000 conversations at the Consenza club and shot more than 35,000 hours of video over four years. A total of 1,340 charges were laid as part of its vast probe and 90 people were arrested in 2006, but none of it was related to possible corruption in construction. While the tapes kept rolling when construction bosses were around, officers weren't listening in on the discussions and didn't dig deeper because that wasn't part of their mandate.
The Charbonneau commission, led by Quebec Superior Court Judge France Charbonneau, is looking into criminal corruption in the Quebec construction industry and its ties to organized crime and political parties. The commission's own investigators have been able to identify certain construction industry executives not identified by the RCMP.
The language spoken on the videos is mainly a Sicilian dialect.