MONTREAL - Former construction magnate Tony Accurso described alleged Mafia kingpins Vito Rizzuto and his son Nick as "minor contacts" on Wednesday.
During his second day of testimony at Quebec's corruption inquiry, Accurso said he had many friends or good acquaintances among members of the Quebec Federation of Labour and its construction wing as well as with other important people.
However, he insisted that the many friendships he forged over the years did not give him any special advantages, such as a better workforce or preferential access to financing.
Prosecutor Sonia Lebel asked Accurso to describe how close his relations were with various trade unionists, engineering professionals and municipal politicians. Were they friends, acquaintances or contacts?
She shen mentioned the names of Vito and Nick Rizzuto Jr. He called them each "minor contacts."
He explained that a "contact" meant someone he occasionally ran into and that he could have 3,500 contacts in his cellphone.
Vito Rizzuto, who was alleged to be a leading organized crime figure in Canada and leader of the Rizzuto crime clan in Montreal, died in 2013. His son Nick was gunned down in a Montreal street in 2009.
Accurso, whose testimony has been eagerly anticipated, acknowledged that he was close friends with several leaders of the Quebec Federation of Labour and its construction wing.
He referred to longtime federation president Louis Laberge as his "spiritual father" and described another ex-president, Henri Masse, as a "very, very, very good acquaintance."
Accurso also said he knew Rosaire Sauriol of the Dessau engineering firm as well as Robert Abdallah, a former high-ranking official with the City of Montreal.
Accurso denied ever meddling in internal matters in the Quebec Federation of Labour's construction wing. He also said he never invited potential partners or members of his network aboard his luxury yacht — known as "The Touch" — to do business.
"I've never used my boat for that," he said.
Asked by Lebel if it is possible in the business world to conclude deals on such trips, Accurso said he could not speak for others but that he "never did that."
He also dismissed as "ridiculous" contentions by former QFL-Construction boss Jocelyn Dupuis in a 2009 wiretapped conversation that Accurso "controlled everything."
Accurso, once the owner of several influential construction companies, had argued that testifying at the inquiry would jeopardize his right to a fair trial in pending criminal proceedings. He feared his appearance would taint potential jurors.
The Supreme Court of Canada rejected a bid to excuse him from testifying and Justice France Charbonneau, who chairs the inquiry, refused to place his testimony under a publication ban.
Accurso faces criminal charges in several municipal corruption cases and is also charged with tax fraud.