10/03/2013 09:42 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Applebaum swapped cash for zoning changes, UPAC alleges

Court documents released Thursday to a group of media outlets, including CBC, show Quebec's permanent anti-corruption unit, UPAC, suspected former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum was a key player in a system of corruption in his home borough well before he ascended to the city's top political job.

Search warrants show UPAC investigators took a keen interest in several major real estate projects in Applebaum's borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, including the superhospital now under construction by the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), the site of an old orphanage and an entire sector of the borough known as "the Triangle."

Applebaum was arrested last June, along with former municipal councillor Saulie Zajdel and Jean-Yves Bisson, a former senior bureaucrat in Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.  The former mayor faces a total of a dozen charges, including fraud against the government, breach of trust, conspiracy and municipal corruption.

At the time of those arrests, UPAC said the charges related to obtaining permission and political support for two real estate projects in Applebaum's borough between 2006 and 2011 — while Applebaum was borough mayor.

UPAC went back ten years

However, the documents show the investigation was broader, going back over the entire decade that Applebaum served as borough mayor — from 2002 until 2012. 

Among the real estate projects that UPAC investigated were:

- The $15 million Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Sports Centre near Benny Farm, which opened in 2011.

- The McGill University Health Centre, now under construction near Décarie Boulevard.

- A nine-storey building near University of Montreal

- The site of a former orphanage at Côte-Saint-Luc Road and Décarie Boulevard, slated to become a major pharmacy.

- The "Triangle" — a sector bordered by Jean-Talon Boulevard West, de la Savane Avenue and the Décarie expressway.

UPAC also investigated several condominium developments in the borough, for a total of close to a dozen projects.

The documents show UPAC investigators believed that Applebaum was asking real estate developers for cash in return for zoning changes.

They allege the one-time borough mayor approached real estate promoters through his top political aide, Hugo Tremblay. They suggest other bureaucrats were also involved.

Marcel Tremblay among players named

Among the players named in the search warrants were Marcel Tremblay, a former city councillor and the brother of former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay, as well as Robert Brousseau, the borough's director of permits, who committed suicide the day after investigators met with him last March.

Much of the information contained in the documents remain under a publication ban.  Media lawyers are arguing to have the ban lifted, however so far only some of the information contained in the search warrants has been released. The court hearing will resume on Oct. 24.