10/17/2013 06:47 EDT | Updated 12/17/2013 05:12 EST

Quebec Corruption Inquiry: Tony Tomassi, Ex-Minister, Lobbied For Mob-Linked Firm, Witness Says

MONTREAL - Quebec's corruption inquiry has heard that a former Liberal cabinet minister actively lobbied on behalf of a firm that was being run by organized crime.

Witnesses testified Thursday that Tony Tomassi, a former Liberal family minister who is currently awaiting trial on fraud charges, was actively pushing for contracts for Carboneutre, a soil-decontamination company.

A former chief of staff to then-Liberal environment minister Line Beauchamp recounted his experience with Tomassi in August and September of 2009. Lobbying from a minister wasn't uncommon, Francois Crete noted.

Crete said he was told by a lawyer representing Horizon, a Carboneutre competitor, that there were shady people behind the company. Crete said he advised Beauchamp about Carboneutre.

"I told her (Beauchamp) we're getting out of the file because we were advised there were criminals behind this operation," Crete said.

Commissioner France Charbonneau then asked about the fact that Tomassi was advocating on behalf of these people. Crete said he never asked Tomassi if he knew about who was running the company.

"It was a surprised reaction, like a child who'd been caught doing something wrong," Crete said.

The people behind Carboneutre were Domenic Arcuri and Raynald Desjardins, a former close associate of Mob kingpin Vito Rizzuto. Desjardins is currently incarcerated while awaiting trial in the murder of a mob boss near Montreal.

Arcuri took over ther management of Carboneutre in 2008 and changed the name.

Carboneutre founder Benoit Ringuette testified that while Arcuri carried the title of president, it was Desjardins who had more weight.

Ringuette said Tomassi was introduced to him by Arcuri in 2008 and he judged them to have a close relationship.

A series of emails filed with the commission showed that Tomassi was frequently intervening in files involving Carboneutre — a firm that wasn't even in Tomassi's riding.

"Domenic said it is always important to keep in contact the political domain," Ringuette said. "And when he spoke to me again about a supper meeting, he told me I must go because it's Mr. Tomassi and we must encourage him."

Desjardins and Arcuri were never able to secure the money to buy the firm and Ringuette eventually left for good.

The inquiry resumes on Oct. 28.

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