05/17/2012 08:04 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Frank Zampino Arrested: Former Montreal Mayor's Right-Hand Man Charged In Anti-Corruption Crackdown

MONTREAL - Montreal's "right-hand man" was slapped with handcuffs Thursday.

Frank Zampino, the powerful former No. 2 to Montreal's mayor, was among nine people arrested and charged in a major police anti-corruption haul.

Those arrested included municipal officials and construction-industry players in connection with a massive alleged fraud in a public contract worth more than $300 million.

The suspected scheme was relatively simple: municipal officials are accused of slipping privileged information, like technical specifications, to a construction company competing for a public contract, in exchange for financial benefit.

Those accused of leaking the details were well-rewarded, according to police: "We're talking about monetary advantages and gifts," said provincial police Insp. Denis Morin.

The raft of arrests is among the biggest against alleged corruption in a province that has been awash in scandals for several years.

The string of scandals began about four years ago, with reports about activities at Montreal's city hall, and it has culminated in a provincial corruption inquiry set to start next week.

Wearing a hoodie and sunglasses, Zampino was taken into custody this morning, brought out of his house in cuffs. Prominent construction magnate Paolo Catania was detained at Montreal's Trudeau airport.

The province's police anti-corruption unit had its first major bust last month, arresting 14 people including construction bigwig Tony Accurso.

It also detained politically connected players in an alleged scheme involving kickbacks and bribes in exchange for advantages in the awarding of public-works contracts.

Zampino had vacationed on Accurso's yacht before and after one of Accurso's companies was awarded a historically lucrative contract to install water meters as part of a consortium.

After leaving municipal politics, Zampino had gone on to work at another engineering firm that was also part of the consortium, and quit when the yacht stories came out. He maintained he had never intervened on behalf of any company.

Zampino was the chair of the city's executive committee — essentially the head of the local equivalent of a cabinet.

"We've said it before and will say it again: nobody is above the law," said Francois Roux, a director with the provincial police.

The other people charged are: Martin D'Aoust, 37; Pasquale Fedele, 48; Martial Fillion, 59; Andre Fortin, 47; Daniel Gauthier, 54; Pascal Patrice, 43; and Bernard Trepanier, 74.

One company, Construction Frank Catania et Associes Inc., was also charged with fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust.

Trepanier was a former partisan bagman, who raised cash for the party of Mayor Gerald Tremblay. Fillion was the head of the municipal agency that oversaw municipal real estate.

Thursday's accusation centre on the awarding of a contract for a gigantic condo project, the 1,800-unit Faubourg Contrecoeur.

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