MONTREAL – After spending one week behind bars, Quebec construction magnate Tony Accurso was released on bail Thursday while he appeals his conviction and four-year prison sentence in connection with a vast Montreal-area municipal fraud scheme.
Despite recognizing that the trial judge said Accurso participated in “one of the worst examples, if not the worst, of municipal corruption that has ended up in a Canadian court,” Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Manon Savard ruled he should be released.
Savard cited judicial precedent stating the seriousness of the crime doesn’t necessarily mean the accused should be incarcerated while waiting for an appeal to be heard.
Accurso, 66, was sentenced to four years in prison earlier this month after a jury convicted him on five fraud-related charges in connection with the contract kickback system in Laval, north of Montreal.
The corruption 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.
Construction companies were given lucrative public contracts in exchange for bribes to Vaillancourt and other officials.
Savard said her analysis of the evidence presented by Accurso’s legal team led her to conclude that “the appeal of the verdict is not futile.”
She also said she has no reason to believe Accurso would violate his bail conditions, which include posting bond of $150,000, surrendering his passport, remaining in Quebec and not possessing weapons.
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.
His legal team alleged there were various errors in law with regard to the cancellation of the trial as well as in relation to other judicial and investigative procedures.
Of the $150,000 bail, $50,000 must come from Accurso himself, $75,000 from his son and $25,000 from a third party.
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.
Neither Accurso’s lawyer nor the Crown were available for comment Thursday.