Montreal

'Never did I intervene': Frank Zampino testifies in his own defence at fraud trial

Frank Zampino, the former second-in-command at Montreal City Hall, continued testifying in his own defence Wednesday at his trial on fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust charges tied to the Faubourg-Contrecoeur land deal.

Ex city executive chairman charged with fraud, conspiracy, breach of trust over Faubourg Contrecoeur land deal

Frank Zampino, former chairman of the Montreal executive committee, was arrested in the spring of 2012 on charges of fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust in connection with a land deal. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Frank Zampino, the former second-in-command at Montreal City Hall, continued testifying in his own defence Wednesday at his trial on fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust charges tied to the Faubourg-Contrecoeur land deal.

Zampino maintained throughout his testimony that he did not use his influence to help the company Construction Frank Catania gain a more favourable deal in purchasing land from the city.

"Never did I intervene with anyone at the City of Montreal to determine how this would be done," Zampino testified.

Zampino was chairman of Montreal's executive committee under former mayor Gerald Tremblay from 2002 to 2008.

During that time, the city was hoping to sell a property it owned, known as the Contrecoeur site in east end Montreal, to a developer to build apartments including social housing units.

Civil servants have testified that they believed the land should have been sold for about $20 million.

In the end the city's development arm the SHDM sold the property to Construction Frank Catania for $4.4 million.

Zampino was arrested in 2012.

Prosecutors allege Zampino used his influence to obtain a sweeter price for Catania in return for political contributions.

Much of Zampino's testimony Wednesday focused on why the land was sold at a price lower than market value.

Zampino said the land was sold at a deep discount because of the high cost of decontaminating it.

He said the city preferred to sell the land at a lower price and have the buyer pay for decontamination.

Zampino was also asked about a technical change to zoning bylaw that helped the deal go through.

He said the change to the bylaw was required because the size and scope of the project were unprecedented.

He testified details of changing the bylaw were worked out by city bureaucrats and he had no responsibility for that.

Zampino, who remained standing as he testified in English, answered detailed questions without hesitation about meetings and documents that dated back more than a decade.

The trial began in February 2016.  The prosecution called dozens of witnesses and wrapped its case last month.

The defence case began with Zampino's testimony Tuesday.

Zampino will continue to testify in his defence when court resumes Thursday morning.