Montreal

Quebec judge stays nearly 1,000 tax fraud charges against construction boss Paolo Catania, associates

Lawyer Paul Ryan confirmed Quebec court Judge Magali Lepage delivered a verbal decision to drop the charges in a Longueuil courtroom Thursday.

Charges were stayed after judge determined the process was taking too long

Construction magnate Paolo Catania leaves Quebec provincial police headquarters after being arrested in 2012. He was been acquitted of fiscal fraud charges on Thursday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Quebec construction entrepreneur Paolo Catania, his company and his associates won't stand trial on nearly 1,000 fiscal fraud charges after a judge determined the process was taking too long.

Paul Ryan, part of the team of lawyers representing the defendants, confirmed Quebec court Judge Magali Lepage delivered a verbal decision to stay the charges in a Longueuil courtroom Thursday.

In June 2013, Catania, his company Construction Frank Catania and Associates, and a number of individuals and corporations were accused of making false declarations and of falsely obtaining tax credits.

Revenue Quebec and UPAC, Quebec's anti-corruption squad, charged them with 989 charges of tax fraud.

In 2016, the Supreme Court's Jordan ruling, meant to curtail delays within the justice system, set a limit of 18 months between the laying of charges and the actual or anticipated end of a trial in provincial court.

That timeline can be extended to 30 months if there is a preliminary inquiry.

Ryan said the request for the stay of proceedings was made in October 2018, and at the time, the court date hadn't yet been set.

After making that request, the defence team found out the trial was expected to wrap up in May 2020 — nearly seven years after the charges were first laid.

The judge went through each delay in the case to determine who was responsible for it and whether the rights of the accused were infringed as a result of those delays. She came to the decision that taken together, the length of the delays was unreasonable.

"Evidence can get lost, notes can get lost, memories fade. And to have the weight of accusations on you for several years is already some kind of punishment, if you want to look at it that way," Ryan said.

Revenue Quebec has not commented on the developments.

Another acquittal and a pending lawsuit

Last year, Catania, his construction company, Frank Zampino, the former number two at Montreal city hall, and four other people were acquitted in the Faubourg-Contrecoeur case.

Zampino was arrested in 2012 and accused of using his political influence to help Catania in a bid to secure the contract to build a housing development on city-owned land in east-end Montreal in 2007. 

The judge in that case determined many of the Crown's arguments amounted to "speculation" and "conjecture."

Catania was also named in a lawsuit launched by the City of Montreal in 2018.

The city is seeking more than $14 million in damages from individuals and companies involved in Montreal's cancelled $356-million water meter contract.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated Paolo Catania, his company and his associates were acquitted. In fact, the charges against them were stayed.
    Aug 03, 2019 8:09 AM ET

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.