A Canadian mayor who said he would clean up corruption has been arrested on fraud charges himself. Local politicians and Quebec's provincial government are calling on Michael Applebaum to step down.
Michael Applebaum, Montreal's interim mayor, faces 14 charges, including defrauding the government and corruption in municipal affairs. He was arrested at his home early Monday.
The charges against Applebaum date from before he became mayor of Canada's second largest city. He is accused of having received illicit commissions in two real estate development deals in the neighborhood he represented on the city council between 2006 and 2011, authorities said.
Applebaum, a former real estate agent, took office in November after the resignation of his predecessor, Gerald Tremblay, amid corruption allegations. Applebaum promised to fight alleged corrupt links between the city administration and construction companies, suspected of paying millions of dollars for rigging public works contracts.
"The corruption and collusion will no longer be tolerated," Robert Lafreniere, the head of Quebec's anti-corruption unit, told a news conference Monday. "No one is above the law and you cannot hide from the law," he said.
Police said the transactions were each worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. "These were bribes that influenced a decision, approvals or permit distribution," one of the investigators said of the alleged crimes.
Authorities said that former Montreal city councilor Saulie Zajdel was also arrested with Applebaum. A third arrested politician, Jean-Yves Bisson, is a former borough manager in Cote-des-Neiges-Notre Dame de Grace, where Applebaum served as mayor for a decade. More arrests may be expected in the coming days, officials said.
Applebaum, Zajdel and Bisson are due to appear in court to answer to the charges in October, police said.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, responding to a reporter's question about whether Applebaum should step down, said "I don't think he really has a choice." Jean-François Lisee, the provincial cabinet minister responsible for the city, told reporters Monday that Applebaum should do "the responsible thing" for the good of the city.
Applebaum, 50, is the latest in a long list of Quebec politicians and businesses to come under scrutiny in recent months. He became the first Anglophone mayor of the French-speaking city in exactly 100 years and had already promised not to run in the mayoral election due in November.
Immediately after the news broke Montreal city council called for the nomination of a new mayor to replace Applebaum within 30 days.
His arrest comes just a month after Gilles Vaillancourt, the former longtime mayor of neighboring Laval, was arrested on corruption charges. The provincial police allege that Vaillancourt's city government was essentially a criminal organization, with officials there allegedly enriching themselves off local construction deals.
jm/jr (AP, AFP)