After nine years, tax bribery case against Tony Accurso has been dropped
After nine years, the case against Tony Accurso and four co-defendants for allegedly defrauding Revenue Canada has been abandoned by the Crown.
Prosecutor Francois Blanchette requested a stay of proceedings on Thursday, saying that the disclosure of evidence required by Judge Melane Hebert could not be accomplished within a reasonable deadline.
The former construction magnate was accused of having organized, along with entrepreneur Francesco Bruno and accountant Francesco Fiorino, a scheme whereby bribes of nearly $250,000 would have been paid to former federal tax officials Adriano Furgiuele and Antonio Girardi in order to avoid paying tax.
Accurso and three of co-defendants were first brought to court in 2012 while Girardi first appeared in 2018. In all cases, the maximum time limit had been exceeded. However, the court had recognized the complexity of the case, which allowed it to proceed.
The defence requested a stay of proceedings in January, saying the Crown had not disclosed all evidence, in particular 600 boxes of documents seized by Revenue Canada 12 years ago. Hebert suspended proceedings on April 15, and on June 4, ordered the disclosure of the documents in question.
“We came to the conclusion that we could not comply with the order of the court by respecting the principles of the Jordan judgment,” Blanchette said, referring to the precedent-setting case in which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that court proceedings must move forward within a reasonable time frame.
“What we were asked to do, which was to digitize the evidence for the accused, put us in a position where the principles of the Jordan judgment could no longer be respected. The task was colossal... We are talking about hundreds of thousands of pages with different formats, double-sized, etc... You can't do the scanning, indexing, filing, sorting and everything.
“It's a process that is extremely expensive in both time and resources. Despite all the goodwill, it becomes difficult to carry out. We are talking about several weeks in a context where the deadlines are already very advanced.”
“We came to the conclusion that, unfortunately for us, we couldn't continue the proceedings in this case. We must act like officers of the law and put our emotions aside and what we think is the best thing for the case... and act fairly for the litigants.”
-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on July 8, 2021.