Quebec corruption inquiry taking a longer-than-expected winter break

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MONTREAL - Quebec's high-profile corruption inquiry will take a longer-than-expected, unscheduled winter break.

Officials announced Monday that instead of pausing for one month from late December to Jan. 21, the inquiry will rise three weeks early, after this week.

They said the extended break was caused by personnel changes.

The inquiry's chief counsel, Sylvain Lussier, announced during the fall that he had to quit because of the potential appearance of a conflict of interest. He had represented a company named at the inquiry. Later, Lussier's assistant also quit after he was passed up for the chief-counsel spot.

The commission is looking to hire additional lawyers to replace them.

The new chief counsel, Sonia Lebel, denied that the extended break had been caused by delays in getting documents from the provincial police and RCMP — which had fought in court to avoid disclosing evidence.

Ultimately, the inquiry won the right to see surveillance video which showed construction industry figures splitting up stacks of cash with senior members of the Mafia.

The probe then heard sensational testimony this fall about widespread corruption in Quebec's construction industry that saw the price on public projects inflated, with the proceeds divvied up between companies, the Mafia, political parties, and crooked bureaucrats.

The testimony has already led to the resignation of the mayors of Montreal and neighbouring Laval.

The Charbonneau commission must table its final report by Oct. 19, 2013.

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