The man several witnesses have described as an insider in a system of public works contract collusion in Montreal says that he was never involved in contract rigging.
Nicolo Milioto, known as Mr. Sidewalk for the large number of municipal sidewalk laying contracts his company obtained, told the province’s corruption commission that he has never colluded with other companies to secure contracts.
"In 23 years, I never did it," he said.
Commission prosecutor Sonia LeBel showed the hearing a spreadsheet detailing paving companies that obtained city contracts over the past 15 years.
The document initially showed the bids and the contracts spread over almost 50 companies.
By the mid-2000s, however, when LeBel said a contract collusion scheme was at its height in Montreal, that list quickly narrowed to four or five companies which were putting in the vast majority of the bids and winning nearly all the contracts.
All those companies, LeBel said, were owned by men whose families were from Cattolica Eraclea, the small town in Sicily where both Milioto and Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. were born. The owners were also noted at the Consenza on police surveillance.
LeBel suggested that Milioto and the other companies had colluded to "close the market" and push the other companies out, all under the supervision of the Mafia.
"No, madame," Milioto replied.
He said the bidding process was open to any company, and those who got the contracts won them because they worked hard and were capable of completing the jobs.
Last fall, Michel Leclerc, the owner of another paving company that specializes in granite curbs, told the commission that Milioto convinced him to act as a subcontractor for members of a cartel of companies controlling the sidewalk projects.
Leclerc said he had no choice if he wanted to do the work in Montreal, since he had already been approached by Milioto and told that sidewalks in the city were his business.
He told the commission he eventually started diverting three per cent of the value of his contracts to Milioto and was told that money was destined for "politics."
Milioto denied that the subcontracts he gave to Leclerc, including 100 per cent of one contract awarded to Milioto's company Mivela in 2008, was offside, telling the commission that he had no choice but to outsource the work because his company already had too on its plate.
He said that often the city gave only a few week’s notice when a project was to start and, if his crews were already committed to another job, he had to subcontract out the work to avoid paying a penalty.
LeBel pointed to phone records which showed Leclerc phoned Milioto 77 times between 2004 and 2010. Six of those calls were made just before the opening of two public tenders in 2004.
She suggested that the calls were actually Leclerc calling to talk about who would bid what on the tenders or to arrange a meeting to discuss it.
Milioto denied that suggestion, saying he couldn’t remember what they talked about, but it was likely about availability of equipment or previous contracts.
He said he never spoke with Leclerc about upcoming tenders.
“I never arranged a bid with Mr. Leclerc. He can say what he wants, but I never did it,” he said.
Earlier this morning, Milioto told the commission he regrets doing favours for Mafia boss Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., but he doesn’t regret his relationship with the head of the infamous family.
“I did favours that today I regret,” he said. “I don’t regret knowing him and having a coffee with him …. I regret handling the money for Mr. Rizzuto. That I really regret. But to know these people — I don’t think it gave me advantages or disadvantages.
“I don’t regret knowing them. To me, they were good people who I respected and nothing more.”
The retired construction boss was caught on police surveillance more than 200 times at the Consenza Social Club, a Mafia hangout, during a four-year period in the mid-2000s.
He has admitted to doing errands for the godfather of the Montreal Mob, Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., who was assassinated in his home in 2010.
Milioto has denied having any business dealings with the Mafia and said he did not play the role of an intermediary with members of organized crime and the industry.
He said he was simply friends with the Rizzutos, who hail from the same small village in Sicily, and any illegal activities they may have been involved in were none of his business.
“They were nice people,” Milioto said. "Believe me, I [knew] them. I never had any problems. You might have a different impression from the outside. But when you are close, you see that [Nicolo Rizzuto Sr.] is a friendly person.
He has also admitted to delivering money to Rizzuto on behalf of another contractor, Lino Zambito, but said he didn't know what the money was for and the delivery was made at Zambito's request.
Yesterday, after he was presented with police surveillance showing him taking money from Rizzuto and putting it his sock at the Consenza, Milioto admitted he had once taken a loan of around $25,000 from the Mafia godfather. He explained that it was easier to borrow money from his friend than go to a bank and pay interest.
“I never personally profited from that money. Never. I took a loan one time. I paid him back,” Milioto said.
Milioto told the commission he couldn’t remember what he did with that money, because it was more than eight years ago. He did insist that he paid Rizzuto back “two or three months later.”
On Wednesday morning, Milioto testified he remembered taking money from Rizzuto on another occasion, but this time it was to deliver to Montreal construction boss, Frank Catania.
He said he took an envelope of cash to Catania’s office, but didn’t look inside to see how much was in it.