Corruption focus on man tied to Harper
Oct 2, 2012 / 1:00 pm
The ripple effect from a corruption inquiry that has focused so far on local wrongdoing in Montreal has moved closer to federal circles with testimony about a scam involving a man once linked to the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Quebec's inquiry heard Tuesday that the man the Harper government once promoted as its preferred candidate to run the Port of Montreal played a role in the corruption schemes that were rampant in the local construction industry.
Robert Abdallah was accused of participating in a kickback system at the City of Montreal, during testimony before the inquiry that is looking into the construction industry and its links to organized crime and politics.
The testimony caused Quebec's inquiry to reverberate in the House of Commons. The federal government was forced to fend off opposition queries about its relationship with Abdallah and it stressed that, in the end, he didn't get the port job.
Harper's office also downplayed Abdallah's federal ties.
"We have no comment on the allegations made against former City of Montreal staff," a prime ministerial spokesman said in an email.
Earlier Tuesday, former construction boss Lino Zambito had testified that Abdallah, when he was the top civil servant in the city, instructed him through a middleman to use piping from a particular firm while working on a major sewer contract.
The piping was more expensive, but Zambito says he was assured by a city engineer acting as a middleman that he would be compensated and informed that $300,000 would go to Abdallah as part of the deal.
Members of the board of the Port of Montreal have said that they were pushed to appoint Abdallah by a one-time senior aide to Harper, Dimitri Soudas.
Abdallah was not appointed in the end and, after leaving city hall, he went on to work in the construction industry. The allegations against him at the Charbonneau commission have not been proven in court and he has denied them in media interviews.
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