MONTREAL — Ex-Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay took the stand on Monday as a Crown witness at the fraud trial of Frank Zampino, his former No. 2 at city hall.
The three-term mayor testified at the corruption trial where Zampino is one of six people facing fraud and breach of trust charges stemming from a deal for a housing project dubbed Faubourg Contrecoeur, built on what was once city-owned land.
The sprawling property in the eastern part of the city was sold in 2007 to Group Catania for a fraction of its assessed value.
Authorities have alleged municipal officials were slipping privileged information to the company and in exchange, the accused allegedly received financial kickbacks and other gifts.
Charges were laid in 2012 and a trial began this year after numerous delays.
Six people are currently on trial before a judge alone, including Zampino, construction boss Paolo Catania and four of his employees.
One accused has passed away and another will be tried separately at a later date.
Tremblay, who described himself as a retired lawyer to the court, described Zampino as an exceptional "right-hand man" with pertinent experience, having straightened out the finances of the former municipality of St. Leonard while serving as its mayor.
He said he placed Zampino in charge of the project, which involved numerous city departments, because he was the right person to make it happen.
"I needed the person who had the most competence, the most experience to co-ordinate all that, and that was Mr. Zampino," Tremblay testified.
As for Catania, Tremblay said they crossed paths at fundraisers, but never spoke about specific projects.
Zampino was the chair of Tremblay's executive committee, which is the municipal equivalent of a government cabinet.
Tremblay, who was elected mayor in 2001, 2005 and 2009, told the court he wouldn't have ascended to the mayoralty without Zampino's support.
Tremblay, who resigned in 2012, returns to the stand on Tuesday.