MONTREAL - A retired sidewalk builder raised eyebrows Monday when he told an inquiry he often delivered cash to a top mobster he had known for 40 years, but never asked why.
In two hours of colourful testimony at the Charbonneau commission, Nicolo Milioto denied he was the middleman between the mob and a cabal of Montreal construction contractors.
He instead pointed the finger at former excavation specialist Lino Zambito, the very same whistleblower who had accused Milioto at the inquiry last fall.
Milioto claimed it was Zambito who set up cash deliveries to Nick Rizzuto Sr., Vito's father, at the family's Consenza social club in east-end Montreal.
"Mr. Zambito gave me the money and I brought it to Mr. Rizzuto, and I never asked why," Milioto, known as "Mr. Sidewalk," testified.
The witness said he grew up in the same Sicilian village as Nick Rizzuto, met him at weddings and funerals, and often played cards with him at Consenza but that they never discussed business.
"What did you talk about?" asked inquiry counsel Sonia Lebel.
"Everything and nothing," Milioto replied.
"What was Mr. Rizzuto's source of revenue?" Lebel continued.
Milioto retorted "I'm not his accountant, ma'am."
The witness later added "for me, he's a family man and a good person. He respected me, I respected him. I knew what the papers said, but it didn't affect me."
A sniper shot and killed Nick Rizzuto in 2010 in his luxury Montreal home.
The inquiry heard that Montreal-area construction contractors paid a 2.5% cut to the Rizzutos through Milioto in the mid-2000s.
Police observed Milioto visiting the Consenza club 236 times between 2004 and 2006.
Video footage screened at the inquiry in September showed Milioto divvying up cash with Nick Rizzuto, who stuffed the cash into his socks.
Video of the Consenza transactions led to raids that netted dozens of Mafia members in 2009, including the elderly mobster.
The inquiry prosecutor grew impatient Monday when Milioto insisted that during his visits to Consenza, he and Nick Rizzuto never discussed the lengthy prison term Vito Rizzuto was serving in the United States.
"You went to Consenza 236 times it was to chat, play cards and drink coffee?" the prosecutor asked sarcastically.
"My butcher is next door," he claimed. "I went there to get bread. Maybe I came in (to Consenza) at the same time to get a coffee."