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900+ Charges Rock Construction Empire

Friday, June 28, 2013

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A notorious Quebec heavy-construction magnate with a long history of corruption charges has been slapped with hundreds of tax-fraud charges that could land him behind bars with millions of dollars in fines.

Revenu Québec has issued a total of 928 counts against Antonio "Tony" Accurso, four of his construction companies, and an associate, the agency announced Wednesday (June 26). The charges carry some $8.5 million in potential fines and a maximum of two years in prison.

The charges follow a raid on Accurso's offices by Revenu Québec last fall.

Simard-Beaudry Construction Inc., a leading Canadian construction firm, and several other contracting companies that perform a wide variety of large-scale engineering and construction projects.

Antonio Accurso
Montreal Gazette / Allen McInnis

Quebec construction mogul Antonio Accurso and several of his companies were hit with 928 charges; 470 counts named him personally.

He was not arrested but was ordered to appear before a judge on Sept. 25.

The charges allege tax fraud, Revenu Québec said in a press release.

A spokesperson for Revenu Québec said the charges issued were under the penal, not criminal, system; the maximum punishment is two years in jail, Canada MSN News reported.

Four Companies, Hundreds of Charges

Accurso and his former companies are accused of making false statements and asking for illegitimate tax credits and tax refunds on inputs from June 1, 2005 to March 31, 2010. Charges of false invoices to registered books have also been filed.

The companies, valued at a total of $150 million, and the number of counts each faces are:

  • Simard-Beaudry Construction Inc., a large-scale civil engineering firm founded in 1950 that builds bridges and roads, dams, urban infrastructures and water purification (222 counts);
  • Constructions Louisbourg Ltd., another construction company based in Laval (97 counts);
  • Constructions Marton, a division of Louisbourg (64 counts); and
  • Louisbourg Simard-Beaudry Construction Inc. (69 counts).

Accurso was individually charged with a total of 470 counts; his right-hand man, Franco Minicucci, was charged with six counts.

Accurso and Minicucci are accused of making false tax returns from 2005 to 2010 by failing to report taxable income from the four companies.

Putting the Touch on 'Touch'

The tax investigation was nicknamed "Project Touch" after Accurso's 120-foot-long yacht The Touch, which he used to entertain political and business figures.

The investigation, which is ongoing, has been led by Quebec's Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (known by its French acronym of UPAC), which was established in February 2011.

"It is thanks to the collaboration of UPAC teams that the numerous cases in the fight against corruption and embezzlement have become the focus of rigorous investigations carried out by the Revenue Quebec team, which today filed significant charges against individuals and companies that have abused Quebec's tax system," unit director Robert Lafreniere said in the announcement.

Project Touch
superyachts.com

The investigation was called "Project Touch," after Accurso's personal superyacht, Touch used to court politicians and business figures.

The new case comes just weeks after a 14-count case was filed against Accurso. Those charges, filed May 1, relate to one of his former companies, Hyprescon Inc. In that case, he is accused of allegedly agreeing to carry out false statements and asking for illegitimate tax credits and refunds between March 1, 2005, and Sept. 30, 2005.

Hyprescon, a supplier of concrete pressure pipe, was sold to Hanson Pipe & Precast, of Irving, TX, in 2007.

Empire Sold Off

Accurso reportedly withdrew from his businesses and sold a large portion of his construction empire to Hexagon Investments, where two of his sons are shareholders, CTV News reported.

He announced his retirement in October 2012.

The four companies named in the new charges were not part of the sale, Joel Gauthier, head of Hexagon, told CTV News.

Edouard Plante-Frechette / Archives La Presse

In 2010, Louisbourg and Simard-Beaudry pleaded guilty to tax evasion. Accurso has also been arrested multiple times for fraud and tax evasion.

"We knew there was trouble with the tax authorities, and there were search warrants, but we did our homework," Gauthier said.

Past Charges, Mafia Involvement

In 2010, Construction Louisbourg and Simard-Beaudry Construction pleaded guilty to federal charges of tax evasion and were ordered to pay a combined $8 million in fines and back taxes. The two firms admitted to improperly claiming $19 million in business expenses and failing to pay $4 million in resulting taxes between 2003 and 2008.

In April 2011, Accurso was charged with fraud, conspiracy, influence peddling, breach of trust and two counts of defrauding the government. Quebec's anti-corruption unit found that public officials were allegedly benefiting from gifts and money in exchange for privileged information and favorable decisions.

In August 2012, Accurso was arrested on charges related to a federal tax evasion conspiracy. He was released by police the same day.

In October 2012, the Charbonneau Commission heard testimony from Lino Zambito, former owner of Infrabec, a company that bid on a $25 million Quebec Transport Department contract in 2002.

According to Zambito, he was called to a meeting at a restaurant owned by Accurso after submitting his bid. Zambito said he was then escorted to a back room and told by reputed Mafia godfather Vito Rizzuto that he should withdraw his bid, the Montreal Gazette reported.

Accurso denied that the meeting ever happened.

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Criminal acts; Government contracts; Lawsuits; North America; Taxes

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