Montreal

Ex-mayor Michael Applebaum will not testify at his corruption trial

A Quebec court has learned the defence will not be presenting any evidence in the Michael Applebaum corruption trial, and the former Montreal mayor will not be testifying.

Former mayor on trial for corruption, breach of trust, maintains his innocence

Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum gets into a car outside police headquarters in Montreal, Monday, June 17, 2013. Applebaum was arrested earlier as part of a bribery case. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

A Quebec court has learned the defence will not be presenting any evidence in the Michael Applebaum corruption trial, and the former Montreal mayor will not be testifying. 

Applebaum is accused of breach of trust, conspiracy and two forms of corruption: municipal corruption and fraud on the government.

All the charges date back to his time as borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and relate to an alleged strategy of asking for bribes in exchange for bureaucratic favours. 

Applebaum has always maintained his innocence.

On the seventh day of the trial, the prosecution rested its case after hearing testimony from its final witness.

Defence lawyer Pierre Teasdale informed the court he would not be calling any witnesses to testify. His final arguments will be based on the evidence already before the court.

Prosecutor Nathalie Kleber is expected to make her closing arguments on Friday, followed by Teasdale on Monday. 

Final witness never saw Applebaum receive cash

The final witness called by the prosecution was retired mortgage consultant Anthony Keeler.

He told the court that in exchange for a promise of roughly $35,000 in kickbacks, former mayor Michael Applebaum ensured a zoning committee would approve his real estate project on de Troie Avenue in Montreal.

​"He sold it to the committee," Keeler said, referring to the borough's zoning committee.

But under cross-examination, he admitted that he never saw the cash actually being handed to Applebaum. 

The court has heard how Keeler and his business partner Robert Stein agreed to pay between $30,000 and $35,000 to ensure their plans for a condominium development would be approved by the borough.

Keeler told the court that Applebaum's right-hand man, Hugo Tremblay, initially asked him for a much higher amount, between $100,000 and $50,000 in cash, in exchange for their help.

He'd call and say, 'Can we have lunch tomorrow?' and if I had the money, I would say yes.- Anthony Keeler, retired mortgage consultant 

"He said, 'Michael will have to work hard on it,'" Keeler testified.

After Keeler negotiated the total sum down to around $35,000, he said he and Tremblay agreed to meet three or four times at the Brûlerie St-Denis on Côte-des-Neiges Road for the cash transcations.

"We had a code, I guess you'd call it," Keeler told the court.

"He'd call and say, 'Can we have lunch tomorrow?' and if I had the money, I would say yes."

Crown witness Robert Stein said he felt like he had to pay thousands of dollars in kickbacks to bureaucrats if he wanted to succeed as a real estate manager in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough. (Radio-Canada)

Keeler's business partner felt 'bullied, extorted'

Keeler's testimony followed that of his former business partner, real estate manager Robert Stein. 

During his testimony, Stein called himself "a sucker" and a victim of extortion.

He portrayed himself as a naive, young entrepreneur in his 20s in 2006, when he took over the family business in the wake of his father's death.

"I was bullied, extorted. I had no support from anyone around me," he testified on Monday.

"Every single person has their hand out, on one project, on this first project I've ever developed," he said, referring to his condominium development on Montreal's de Troie Avenue, which was never completed.

But during cross-examination, defence lawyer Pierre Teasdale questioned Stein's naiveté.

Teasdale asked about Stein's father and his relationship with Tony Magi, a Montreal businessman with known links to organized crime.

"My father, I think, for many years had a good reputation. That reputation, I believe, was tarnished by his business association with Mr. Magi," Stein said.

Former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum arrives at the courthouse accompanied by his defence team on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Stein explained that Magi had offices in the same building as his father.

He said that despite his efforts to re-establish the family name after his father's death, Stein felt he was sucked into the world of corruption.

He said when bureaucrats, including Applebaum's right-hand man, asked for tens of thousands of dollars to approve his project, he felt like he didn't have much of a choice if he wanted to succeed in the real estate business.

Stein turns police informant 

This week's testimony focused on the proposed Projet Troie development, one of two key projects under scrutiny in the trial. The other is a municipal contract for the management and maintenance of the NDG Sports Centre.

Stein told the court that eventually, in 2012, he went to police and agreed to tell his whole story as an anonymous informant. 

He said it was months later that Applebaum was arrested and resigned as mayor of Montreal.

'The jig is up'

In court on Tuesday, Keeler recalled the morning anti-corruption investigators knocked on his door at 6:30 a.m. in the spring of 2013.

"I was still in my boxers, sleeping wear," he testified.

Keeler said he'd been following the Charbonneau corruption inquiry and wasn't surprised to see police on his doorstep.

"They had the look and the attitude of 'the jig is up,'" he said.

He told the court that he later agreed to work with police, but only after he was assured that Stein would be protected as well.

"The minute they left I called Robbie, I said, 'Put your pants on, come over.'"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jaela Bernstien

Journalist

Jaela Bernstien is a Montreal-based journalist who covers stories about climate change and human rights for CBC News. She has a decade of experience and files regularly for web, radio and TV. She won a CAJ award as part of a team investigating black-market labour in Quebec. You can reach her at jaela.bernstien@cbc.ca

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