Businessman Tony Accurso, who was arrested Thursday morning on charges linked to a multimillion-dollar tax-evasion conspiracy, was released by police later in the afternoon and will appear in court in September.
RCMP arrested Accurso along with another Quebec construction magnate, Francesco Bruno, and former Canada Revenue Agency auditor Adriano Furgiuele on the same charges, as part of the still-unwinding saga of corruption in the province's construction sector that touches all levels of government.
The three men, plus Bruno's former accountant Francesco Fiorino, each face six charges including fraud, forgery, conspiracy and breach of trust by a public official, Cpl. Luc Thibault said Thursday morning outside the RCMP's Montreal headquarters.
Mounties were interviewing a fifth man Thursday, Thibault said, though he has not yet been charged.
The federal police force alleges the men conspired "to evade the payment of federal income tax" on companies owned by Accurso and Bruno, and were aided by corrupt tax officials at the CRA.
Accurso has already been arrested once this year on accusations of fraud, conspiracy, influence-peddling, breach of trust and defrauding the government following an investigation into how the Montreal-area municipality of Mascouche awarded more than $40 million in contracts.
His name has been at the centre of several allegations, including that he entertained a Montreal municipal politician on his yacht while the elected official was in charge of awarding a $355-million public contract for city water meters — a contract that eventually went to a consortium in which Accurso was involved.
Accurso was arrested early Thursday morning in Deux Montagnes, where he has a home, and was brought to the Montreal RCMP detachment at about 8:45 a.m. ET in a grey sedan, where two officers walked him into the station in front of a throng of reporters. Journalists asked him to comment on his arrest, but he remained silent.
Years-long probe into CRA
The charges allege the men conspired to evade $3 million in taxes using fake invoices and "subterfuge," Thibault said. The accusations include that Furgiuele drafted a document called "Plan of Action" with a 17-step method to dodge CRA auditors, and that the men concocted a fake foreign person to benefit from tax breaks.
The Mounties say they launched their probe in 2008 in response to a CRA request to have its own Montreal offices investigated for possible corruption. Evidence had emerged that some revenue agency officials in Montreal might have received cash and other perks, including a trip to a Montreal Canadiens game, from people and businesses they were auditing. The agency eventually let go or suspended nine employees.
From the information unearthed in those investigations, penal tax-fraud charges were brought against Accurso's and Bruno's businesses by the CRA.
Accurso's Constructions Louisbourg Ltd. and Simard-Beaudry Construction Inc. pleaded guilty to tax evasion in December 2010 and agreed to pay $4.1 million in fines. Bruno and his company B.T. Ceramiques pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion in February 2011 and agreed to pay more than $1.3 million in fines. The CRA said Bruno helped all three businesses claim fake expenses using two shell companies.
The Bruno and Accurso cases are among several that have surfaced in recent years, as CRA authorities, provincial police, the RCMP and a judicial inquiry continue to probe Quebec's construction industry following corruption allegations involving companies, politicians and the Mafia.