Former Montreal city engineer admits meeting Mafia boss

Former City of Montreal engineer Gilles Surprenant has testified he met the man known as Montreal's Mafia boss, Vito Rizzuto, twice over the period he was accepting kickbacks on construction contracts.

Surprenant told Quebec's corruption inquiry on Monday that he met Rizzuto for the first time in 1997. He was with a fellow city engineer on a vacation to the Dominican Republic that was organized, and paid for, by construction boss Tony Conte. Rizzuto showed up with Conte and they all played golf together.

The second encounter was around 2002, also during a golf excursion. Surprenant told the Charbonneau commission that the same foursome played a round at the Mirage Golf Club in Terrebonne, Que., just north of Montreal. Rizzuto made a 75-foot putt on the last hole to win, Surprenant recalled, and earned $25 from each of the city engineers because they had all placed a bet on the game.

Surprenant was the city engineer in charge of planning and budgeting for public works contracts. Last week, he testified at the corruption inquiry that he accepted $600,000 in bribes over a period of about 10 years in exchange for funnelling extra money to construction companies via the city projects they worked on.

Surprenant's testimony corroborates accusations by the previous witness, former construction boss Lino Zambito. Surprenant said Monday that he was made aware that construction companies paid a 2.5 per cent cut of the value of their city contracts to the Montreal Mafia, and that another three per cent went to the city's executive committee.

Zambito testified that the three per cent went to Union Montreal, the political party of Mayor Gérald Tremblay, an allegation the mayor vehemently denies.

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