Issue with jury members leads to mistrial in Tony Accurso fraud case

The mistrial does not mean the former construction magnate has been found not guilty. His case will be back in court Jan. 7 to determine the next steps.

Former construction magnate was facing charges of fraud, conspiracy, breach of trust and corruption

The Crown prosecutor was arguing that Tony Accurso, seen here in 2012, was involved in a municipal contract scheme in Laval. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

An issue with three jury members has resulted in a Quebec Superior Court judge declaring a mistrial in the case of former construction magnate Tony Accurso.

Accurso, 66, was facing charges of fraud, conspiracy, breach of trust and corruption in the trial, which began at the Laval courthouse on Oct. 19.

The mistrial does not mean Accurso has been found not guilty nor that the charges have been dropped. His case will be back in court Jan. 7 to determine the next steps.

"For the Crown, this situation is unusual. But we will be ready to set a new court date," said Jean-Pascal Boucher, spokesperson for Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions. 

"It is important to reassure the population so they know the case isn't closed; it's a case that will continue."

Suitcases full of money

According to Radio-Canada, a member of the jury presented a note to Superior Court Justice James Brunton Friday morning, saying she had received information about prosecution witness Marc Gendron, who was a fundraiser connected to former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt.

The jury member said her uncle had worked for Gendron and he saw suitcases full of money in Gendron's office years ago.

Upon receiving that information, the jury member told two other members of the 11-person jury.

Brunton spoke to all three jury members and realized the versions of their stories didn't match up.

He decided his only option was to end the trial — a jury must comprise a minimum of 10 jurors. Brunton said it was the first time in 15 years he had declared a mistrial.

The Crown was alleging that Accurso was part of an "immense system" of corruption in Laval that essentially eliminated all competition for municipal contracts in Laval, and citizens paid the price.

Along with Accurso, 36 other people were arrested in a sweep in 2013, but some have since died or have seen charges against them dropped.

Many others, including Vaillancourt, have since pleaded guilty. Accurso is the only one to go to trial.

With files from Radio-Canada's Sébastien Desrosiers and The Canadian Press