The charges are linked to two real-estate transactions that involved “tens of thousands of dollars” in illegal payments between 2006 and 2011, Robert Lafreniere, head of Quebec’s anti-corruption unit, told reporters at a televised press conference in Montreal today. Applebaum was arrested at his home, police said in a statement posted on the provincial government’s website.
Charges against the mayor of Canada’s second most populous city also include conspiracy and corruption in municipal affairs, Lafreniere said. Two other people arrested today face another nine charges, according to the police statement.
The arrests come as a government-appointed commission investigates the granting and management of public construction contracts in Quebec. The hearings, which began in May 2012, are televised daily in Quebec.
Jonathan Abecassis, a spokesman for Applebaum, didn’t immediately return voice-mail messages left today at his work number and on his mobile phone regarding the arrest.
Other investigations regarding the City of Montreal continue, and further arrests in connection with the two real-estate projects at the center of today’s raids are possible, Lafreniere told RDI television in an interview after the press conference. The payments were made to influence permits and zoning decisions, he said.
“No one is above the law,” Lafreniere said in the RDI interview. “If there are other people who committed reprehensible acts, they can be sure that we will be on their case.”
Applebaum became interim mayor in November after his predecessor, Gerald Tremblay, quit amid reports that his party received illegal contributions. Tremblay denied the allegations, which emerged during testimony at the hearings.
Upon taking office, Applebaum, the city’s first English-speaking mayor in a century, pledged to “regain the confidence” of citizens as he vowed not to run in the next elections, which are scheduled for Nov. 3.
Gilles Vaillancourt, former mayor of Laval, Quebec’s third-largest city, was among 37 people arrested last month and charged with crimes including fraud and gangsterism. Laval is now under the trusteeship of the province.
Sylvain Gaudreault, Quebec’s municipal affairs minister, told RDI television in an interview that Applebaum should resign. “I am calling on Mr. Applebaum to take his responsibilities,” Gaudreault said. “The best thing to do in this context is to leave his post.”
Premier Pauline Marois echoed Gaudreault’s comments at a press conference in Montreal, saying “it would be preferable” for Applebaum to leave.
Quebec won’t put the city under trusteeship because current members of the municipal council haven’t been accused of any wrongdoing, Marois said. Calling early elections is out of the question, she also said.
“The elected officials who are here now have shown they can work together to manage Montreal properly,” Marois said.
Anti-corruption officials raided Montreal’s city hall and six borough offices on Feb. 20. One of the borough offices was the one that Applebaum represented for several years.
Applebaum told RDI television on the day of the raids that he met with investigators and wasn’t a target of the investigation. Applebaum said he answered all questions and that his administration was cooperating with police.
Quebec’s anti-corruption unit, known by the French-language acronym UPAC, has now arrested 106 people since its inception in February 2011.
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