MONTREAL — Ex-Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum was a knowing participant in a criminal plot to enrich both himself and others, the Crown told the court Friday as the longtime former municipal politician's corruption trial draws to a close.
Prosecutor Nathalie Kleber spent the first part of her closing arguments reviewing the testimony of witnesses who she said support the Crown's position that Applebaum accepted cash through a former aide in return for favours given to local real estate developers and engineering firms.
She told the judge those witnesses are credible and their cumulative testimony show that Applebaum was involved in the alleged activities.
"Can we conclude that Mr. Applebaum had a knowledge of what was happening? Yes, we can," she said.
Applebaum has pleaded not guilty to all 14 corruption-related charges, including fraud against the government and breach of trust.
They stem from crimes alleged to have occurred in two separate deals between 2007 and 2010 when he was mayor of Montreal's largest borough.
Applebaum, best known for his short stint as interim Montreal mayor between November 2012 and June 2013, did not testify or present a defence at his trial.
His lawyer will present his own closing arguments on Monday.
The Crown reminded the court that Applebaum's former aide, Hugo Tremblay, testified it was the accused who initiated him to corruption and showed him how to fundraise both legally and illegally.
In one instance, Tremblay said he was dispatched to seek payment from two developers hoping to build a student housing project dubbed Projet Troie.
He testified the developer paid him $35,000 in three instalments in the form of cash stuffed in video game boxes, with the amounts then split between Applebaum and Tremblay during exchanges in their private vehicles.
The Crown said Tremblay was new to politics when he was hired by Applebaum and said it was his employer who initiated the scheme.
"Yes, he (Tremblay) had questions about what he was doing," Kleber said. "But he put his faith in Mr. Applebaum."
The bulk of the Crown's closing argument was dedicated to establishing the credibility of the witnesses — especially Tremblay, the only one whose testimony "directly implicates" Applebaum in the alleged scheme.
"He is reliable in his memories, in his recollections," Kleber said of Tremblay.
Despite being the only one who directly linked Applebaum to the alleged cash payments, Kleber said many parts of Tremblay's testimony was corroborated by other witnesses.
Kleber conceded there were some "minor contradictions" in the accounts, but said witnesses agreed on significant details, including the amount of the alleged payments, the method of delivery and details of meetings.
She said that businessmen Robert Stein and his associate Anthony Keeler both said it was clear to them that the requests for cash made by Tremblay originated with Applebaum, even if it wasn't explicitly stated.
The Crown reminded the court that Keeler also testified that Applebaum had told him that "talking to (Tremblay) is like talking to me" and had encouraged him to pay cash for tickets to a fundraising cocktail.
She told the Quebec court Judge Louise Provost that the witnesses did not discuss their testimony amongst themselves beforehand and had not asked for favours in exchange for co-operating with investigators.
"You have no reason to doubt their credibility, their reliability," she said.