WATCH: Applebaum trial: former chief of staff testifies

Applebaum trial

The first witness in the Michael Applebaum trial testified that it was his ex-boss who showed him how political financing worked, even if some of the methods were illegal.

Hugo Tremblay was Applebaum's chief of staff in the borough of Côte-des-Neiges/NDG when Applebaum was mayor there.

Applebaum is on trial on 14 charges including fraud, corruption and breach of trust in connection with two real estate projects in the borough between 2002 and 2012 - a condo project and a maintenance contract for the borough's new sports centre.

Tremblay testified Applebaum showed him how anonymous cash donations were collected by passing the hat at fundraising events, how the money went into a secret fund and how cheques with proxy names were used.

Tremblay testified some of the cash went towards food for election volunteers and money from legal fundraising went to the political party, Union Montreal.

Tremblay said he wasn't surprised by the illegal methods, not even describing them as immoral but thinking, "Ok, that's the way it's done everywhere."

Tremblay said Applebaum explained away the illegal methods, understanding he was open to corruption, saying, "You've gotta make a living."

Tremblay said it was Applebaum who told him how to approach real estate developers and ask for "extra political effort" and that they'd understand it meant money in exchange for support for a project.

Tremblay testified that Applebaum told him they'd ask for $50,000 to greenlight the Projet Troie housing project. Tremblay said it was always the same m.o.: he'd meet with one of the co-developers Anthony Keeler, the money would be in a box in a bag or in an envelope, Tremblay would take the bag and leave it in his car for awhile, then take it home, count the money, take his share - a third of it, put the rest in an envelope and put it in his car's glove compartment. 

When Tremblay met with Applebaum in his car, he'd tell the ex-mayor, "There's something for you in the glove compartment," and Applebaum would take the envelope. Tremblay said sometimes they'd meet in his car or Applebaum's car.

Tremblay said the project eventually fell through after the developer didn't pay the full amount. Keeler and the other co-developer Robert Stein are expected to testify during the trial which is expected to last two weeks.

Applebaum sat next to his lawyers taking notes. The small courtroom was so packed that people were redirected to an overflow room with a video link hookup.



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