Saputo defends reputation following Radio-Canada report about his past ties to organized crime

In a statement released Tuesday, the Quebec cheese mogul denied he's ever been "associated with organized crime." He says the report last week by the investigative program Enquête dealt with events that "made headlines more than five decades ago."

Quebec cheese mogul says Enquête report about past associations 'brought nothing new to light'

Montreal cheese magnate Lino Saputo, seen here in a 2007 picture, has a personal fortune estimated at $6.5 billion. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Quebec cheese mogul Lino Saputo has warned his lawyers could take action against Radio-Canada and its investigative team, following an Enquête report last week about his past ties to mobsters in the Canada and the U.S.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Saputo said the Enquête report "tried to make me guilty by association by reporting on so-called links between me and the Italian Mafia."

Saputo denied he's ever been "associated with organized crime." He said the Radio-Canada report dealt with events that "made headlines more than five decades ago" and "brought nothing new to light."

"I am a person of integrity and honesty and have always been," Saputo said in the statement. 

"I no longer want to devote my efforts and energy to justifying myself or commenting on false and malicious statements made about me in public," he said.

Saputo said his lawyers will serve Radio-Canada and Enquête reporters with a demand letter.

The statement does not specify in detail what Saputo believes to be false in the Radio-Canada report, nor does it indicate what the demand letter will ask for.

"Radio-Canada reiterates that this report is investigative journalism that is based on facts. It was produced in compliance with the rigourous journalistic standards and practices of Radio-Canada," said Marc Pichette, a spokesperson for the public broadcaster. 

CBC broadcast and published English versions of the Enquête report. 

Saputo, now 82, took over his father's cheese-making business in 1969, turning it into a dairy industry giant. The company went public in 1997 and is now worth an estimated $15 billion.

Saputo's personal fortune is pegged at $6.5 billion, making him the richest person in Quebec and one of the 10 richest in Canada.

At several points in his career, Saputo has denied allegations that he had ties with Mafia figures. He reiterated his denials in a memoir published last year.

"We respected the law, kept our distance from criminal organizations and avoided crossing the wrong people," Saputo writes in Entrepreneur: Living our dreams.