MONTREAL — A lawyer for former Quebec construction mogul Tony Accurso is appealing his client’s conviction on fraud and corruption charges as well as his four-year prison sentence.
Marc Labelle is also asking for Accurso to be released from custody pending the appeals.
The Crown countered in court Tuesday that allowing Accurso out of prison would undermine the public’s confidence in the judicial system.
A decision on the release request is expected this week.
Accurso, 66, was sentenced last week after a jury had previously found him guilty on all five charges he was facing stemming from a municipal corruption scheme in Laval, north of Montreal.
The corruption scheme lasted between 1996 and 2010 and was run by former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, who pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges and was sentenced to six years in prison.
Quebec Superior Court Justice James Brunton, who sentenced Accurso, did not agree to a Crown request that Accurso pay $1.6 million in restitution to the City of Laval.
The $1.6 million represented two per cent of the value of the contracts awarded to Accurso’s firms that authorities believe was paid in kickbacks to city officials.
At his trial, Accurso denied any involvement in the scheme and testified he was not aware of any such system in place.
Labelle said the system of collusion and corruption was put in place by Vaillancourt and that Accurso “did not create this system, it was imposed,” adding his client had no choice but to comply.
Labelle noted that because of the size of Accurso’s construction firms, no others could have legitimately competed with him.
Accurso was found guilty of conspiracy to commit corruption in municipal affairs; conspiracy to commit fraud; fraud of more than $5,000; corruption of municipal officials; and breach of trust.
His first trial ended last November when one juror said she had received information from a person linked to a key witness and that she had shared the details with two other jurors.
Accurso was the last of 37 people arrested in 2013 to be tried. Besides Vaillancourt, 26 others pleaded guilty, six had their cases dismissed because of judicial delays and three other people died before the end of their legal proceedings.
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