Quebec judge stays nearly 1,000 tax fraud charges against construction boss Paolo Catania, associates
Charges were stayed after judge determined the process was taking too long
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.
- 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