10/16/2012 12:41 EDT | Updated 12/16/2012 05:12 EST

Quebec construction magnate Tony Accurso to leave business world

MONTREAL - A man who built a construction business into a formidable empire now swamped in corruption scandals has called it quits, announcing Tuesday that he's leaving the business world.

In a statement, disgraced Quebec construction magnate Tony Accurso expressed pride in having turned a family business with 75 employees into a behemoth with 3,500 workers involved in a number of companies and major projects across the country.

That empire now faces an uncertain future.

A series of loosely related events Tuesday hinted at the mess facing Accurso's successor. A former business rival, now a star witness at a corruption inquiry, was dropping bombshells on the witness stand; the province's anti-corruption squad was conducting more raids in the Montreal area; and politicians were drawing up plans to exclude scandal-plagued companies, including some of Accurso's, from the right to seek public contracts.

Accurso said it was time to retire and that his departure would be best for the business. He said he had been considering his departure for more than a year.

"I've decided to withdraw myself completely from the business world, as much for personal reasons as for what I believe to be the interests of the (organization) and the thousands of employees who take part in its activities each day," Accurso said in the statement.

"After more than 30 years at the head of these companies I believe it's best that I turn things over to younger and more energetic people."

Accurso — a central figure in Quebec's ethics scandals — has headed a network of construction companies that have dominated the public-contract market in and around Montreal.

The businessman was arrested twice in recent months and faces several charges including fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

Accurso's name also surfaced recently in testimony at Quebec's inquiry into corruption in the construction industry, during a garrulous appearance from witness Lino Zambito.

Accurso has vigorously denied testimony he invited Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto to settle a dispute with Zambito when his rival wanted to compete for a public contract.

Earlier this month, investigators with Quebec's tax agency executed search warrants at offices linked to Accurso.

His companies have been involved in a number of federal projects, and in construction projects in different provinces. A Canadian Press report revealed they received millions from Ottawa's economic stimulus program for water infrastructure work in Quebec.

Accurso said he hopes the empire, which his father began to build from scratch in the 1950s, continues to operate.

He expressed pride in his family's legacy.

"Aside from our prodigious growth, what touches me most is that this process has allowed me to meet outstanding people," Accurso's statement said.

"I was born in Quebec, and I consider that this was a warm and welcoming place for all my family for nearly a century."