MONTREAL — A former construction entrepreneur turned star whistleblower at Quebec’s corruption inquiry announced on Feb. 11 that he’s suspending his collaboration with the province’s anti-corruption unit.
Lino Zambito said he’s stepping back from his work with the unit, known as UPAC, after documents released recently fingered him as a possible suspect in an investigation into leaks to the media.
At a news conference, Zambito emphatically denied being one of those responsible for leaking documents related to a UPAC probe called Machurer, which looked into suspected illegal financing within the provincial Liberal party under former leader Jean Charest.
“Lino Zambito is not the suspect UPAC is looking for,” he said. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Documents recently unsealed reveal that the anti-corruption unit has been hunting for two years to find the sources responsible for the leaks.
The documents suggest that the four people suspected to have released the information are Zambito, legislature member Guy Ouellette, former police officer Richard Despaties and officer Stephane Bonhomme.
UPAC arrested Ouellette last October but released him soon after without laying charges.
Zambito said that he has “never, and I mean never” had access to files relating to Machurer.
He suggested UPAC’s leaders themselves could be responsible for the leaks, and called for Quebec’s public security minister to launch an independent investigation into the unit before the Quebec government adopts a bill to give it increased powers.
“We must stop that UPAC, that (UPAC head Robert) Lafreniere’s clique (investigating) the leaks to the media,” he said. “You cannot investigate yourself.”
Zambito is known for his testimony in 2012 at the Charbonneau inquiry, where he said construction magnates paid kickbacks to municipal political parties and to members of the Mafia in exchange for public contracts, shedding light on systemic collusion at the municipal level.
He pleaded guilty to several fraud-related charges in 2015.
The ex-entrepreneur said that he has since turned his life around and has been collaborating with the anti-corruption unit to help push its investigations forward.
“Yes I have a past, yes I did whatever I did, I got my sentence, I did my time and I changed my life,” he said. “What’s the purpose of wanting to minimize whatever I say in those inquiries?”
Zambito said he would no longer collaborate with UPAC until changes are made to its leadership.