Montreal

Frank Zampino defends himself in testy exchange at fraud trial

For the first time in six days of testimony at his trial on charges of fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust, Frank Zampino raised his voice during a testy exchange with Crown prosecutor Pascal Lescarbeau.

Ex-Montreal 2nd in command charged with fraud, conspiracy, breach of trust over Faubourg-Contrecoeur land deal

'I will not excuse myself from meeting with developers. That was my job,' said Frank Zampino during fraud trial on Thursday. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

For the first time in six days of testimony at his trial on charges of fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust, Frank Zampino raised his voice during a testy exchange with Crown prosecutor Pascal Lescarbeau.

Zampino is the former head of Montreal's executive committee, the second most powerful political position at city hall.

He's accused of using his political influence to help developer Paolo Catania in his bid to secure the contract to build a housing development known as Faubourg-Contrecoeur in east-end Montreal.

Lescarbeau questioned Zampino Thursday afternoon about his frequent meetings and friendships with developers.

Zampino replied that it was equally important for politicians to meet regular citizens and business people. He lamented that politicians today seem reluctant to do that.

"Decision makers have closed themselves into glass towers for fear of being tagged as someone who might give information to developers," said Zampino. "I will not excuse myself from meeting with developers. That was my job."

Zampino went on to say that he was proud to hold open-door meetings with ordinary citizens on Saturday mornings throughout his time as a municipal politician. 

He said he was happy to discuss small problems people might have with their neighbours.

Free hockey tickets from developers

Lescarbeau interjected.

"Isn't there a difference between listening to the problems of ordinary citizens and going to a private box at the Bell Centre with a developer who just won a contract worth millions of dollars with the city?" Lescarbeau asked.

Zampino's lawyer objected to the question, but the judge overruled the objection.

Zampino raised his voice as he responded, saying he always was able to separate his personal relationships from his responsibilities as a politician.

"It is perilous to make cross-references with every decision I made as a politician and some appointment in my agenda," Zampino admonished Lescarbeau.

"Is there a limit to the gifts you receive?  Where do you draw the line?" Lescarbeau later asked.

"It's not because I receive a $160 hockey ticket that this ticket would in any way influence me," Zampino replied, again raising his voice.

His cross-examination continues Friday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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