Canada
Vito Rizzuto took Caribbean golf trip with city engineers, inquiry told

Credits: PABLO DURANT/LE JOURNAL DE MONTRÉAL/QMI AGENCY

BRIAN DALY | QMI AGENCY

MONTREAL - Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto had direct access to City Hall through two engineers who played golf with him at a Caribbean resort, a public inquiry heard Monday.

The bombshell allegation came from Gilles Surprenant, a longtime city planner who has already admitted to taking $600,000 in bribes from contractors over a 20-year period.

Surprenant told the Charbonneau Commission that contractor Tony Conte invited him and fellow engineer Luc Leclerc to the Dominican Republic to play a week of golf in 1996 or 1997.

When the bureaucrats asked Conte about the identity of the fourth partner, he refused to say, but the partner's identity became clear prior to the flight.

"We got to the airport, we got a surprise, we saw Mr. Rizzuto," Surprenant told the inquiry.

"He was alone. All I can say is that it ... surprised us. We didn't really expect to see Mr. Rizzuto there."
He said they four men flew down to a resort in or near Punta Cana and spent a week playing golf. The retired engineer insists he didn't discuss business with Montreal's "Teflon Don."

But he corroborated earlier testimony by contractor Lino Zambito, who said the Rizzuto crime family received a 2.5% cut from all city contracts.

Surprenant recalled other details from the golfing trip with Rizzuto, including the bets they placed while playing a round.

"I remember very well that on the final hole, Mr. Rizzuto made a putt of about 75 feet to win the round," said the former engineer.

"Then, after that, we had to pay him the bet that we had made. Mr. Leclerc and I paid each member of the (Rizzuto) team $25."

Surprenant also claimed construction contractors had easy access to Montreal's planning and inspection departments as far back as the 1970s.

He joined the city's engineering department in 1976, and said the Public Works director ran an annual golf tournament where contractors would schmooze public officials with gifts.

The event lasted until at least 2007, said Surprenant.

The engineer was nicknamed "Mr. GST" because of the 1% cut Zambito says the bureaucrat took from bid-rigged contracts after he inflated them.

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