No extortion trial for Montreal businessman

Charges against Paolo Catania of extortion, uttering death threats and harassment of another businessman have been withdrawn by Quebec prosecutors.

Prosecutors have a year to reissue charges against Paolo Catania

The owner of one of Quebec's biggest construction firms, Paolo Catania, will not be tried for extortion following his court appearance Thursday.

Charges of extortion, uttering death threats and harassment have been withdrawn by prosecutors.

They have up to a year to reissue the charges against Catania.

Catania, the head of Construction Frank Catania and Associates, which has several contracts with the City of Montreal, appeared at his morning preliminary hearing.

He was arraigned in September 2009 after businessman Elio Pagliarulo accused him of trying to extort money with death threats.

The two men have known each other for years, and Pagliarulo owes Catania about $1.4 million.

Crown prosecutor Natalie Thibert said she decided to withdraw the charges after meeting with Pagliarulo last week.

"After the meeting, [we] decided the prosecution did not have enough evidence to meet the burden of proof," Thibert said.

Thibert told reporters she could not explain what changed, saying if Pagliarulo wishes to, he will speak to the media.

Catania's company is a partner with the city in the controversial Faubourg Contrecoeur housing development project. The city-owned property was sold to the construction company for a fraction of the property's value.

Following an investigation, Montreal's auditor general called for a police probe into the Société d'habitation et de développement de Montréal, the city's housing and development corporation.

A special squad investigating allegations of collusion and corruption in Quebec’s construction industry searched the offices of Catania's firm in March.