Tony Accurso says he donated to political parties using cheques signed by employees

Former construction magnate Tony Accurso said he gave $75,000 a year to fundraiser Marc Bibeau for financing Quebec's Liberal Party.

During his trial on Friday, Accurso claimed he would give the party the money in the form of 25 cheques of $3,000 each signed by employees of his, who he would then reimburse.

The 66-year-old man faces charges of fraud, conspiracy, breach of trust and corruption in the trial.

He testified he had a budget dedicated to donating to Quebec's political parties at the time. Accurso also told the court he gave to the Action démocratique du Québec and the Parti Québécois.

He said he could not remember whether he'd contributed to former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt's campaigns or not. 

Auditors assured him the practice was perfectly legal and that the expenses were openly recorded in the books, Accurso said.

Accurso said the practice came to a halt in 2010, when then-minister of justice and democratic institutions Jean-Marc Fournier introduced legislative changes prohibiting political fundraising using other people's names.

The Quebec Liberal Party, for its part, says it reimburses all donations the Directeur général des élections du Québec (DGEQ) deems not to conform to the Election Act.

The party said it would not comment on Accurso's case because it was before the courts.

"However, the PLQ wishes to underline its full collaboration with UPAC and the DGEQ as it has always done," the party said in a written statement sent to media.

Only found out about Laval corruption in 2013, Accurso claims

Along with Accurso, 36 other people were arrested in a UPAC sweep in 2013, but some have since died or have seen charges against them dropped.

Many others, including Vaillancourt, have since pleaded guilty. Accurso is the only one to go to trial.​

Accurso told the court he only learned about the widespread corruption in Vaillancourt's administration upon his own arrest in 2013.

He said he got in touch with his cousin, Joe Molluso, who was the president of his company, Louisbourg Construction, and demanded Molluso turn himself in. 

Accurso admitted Molluso still works for him, now as consultant for his children's companies, which are unrelated to the construction business. 

"I didn't have the heart to kick him out, he's a member of the family," the former construction boss said. 

Accurso's defence is based on the claim he knew nothing of the system of collusion taking place in Laval and that the blame for his companies' implication in it lies squarely on the presidents of those companies. 

His lawyer, Marc Labelle, led him to repeat that he had never handed two envelopes containing $200,000 to Marc Gendron, a fundraiser connected to Vaillancourt. 

'I wasn't one of his favourites'

During Accurso's trial appearance, he testified that he had a falling out with Vaillancourt because the former mayor wouldn't help him re-zone agricultural land near his quarry in 2000 in order to expand it.

"I would give him solutions and he would present problems," Accurso explained. "I wasn't one of his favourites."

Contrary to what Josiane Pesant, Vaillancourt's secretary, said in her testimony, Accurso denied the meetings he had with the former mayor were secret.

He said he would show up to Laval's City Hall and that Vaillancourt would then insist on holding their meeting at a restaurant where the former mayor was a regular and where they were greeted by fans of his.

Vaillancourt 'never paid' for his meal

Vaillancourt would launch into monologues about his accomplishments that lasted "50 minutes out of 60," Accurso claimed, adding the former mayor "never paid" for his meal.

Labelle, Accurso's lawyer, submitted documents he said showed Accurso signed "piles" of forms in advance for bids his companies would make — which averaged at between 40 and 50 per week.

As Labelle was giving a drawn out explanation of the companies' procedures and how they related to Accurso, Justice James Brunton intervened, saying the jury didn't need all those details. 

Labelle raised his voice, countering that his exposé served to "distance ourselves from an envelope of money handed over in a parking lot; the transactions, there's a life behind all that."

The prosecution is expected to continue cross-examining Accurso on Monday.