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After shaky beginning, Quebec corruption probe finds legitimacy

A sign points to the Charbonneau commission, a public inquiry into corruption within Quebec's construction industry, in Montreal September 17, 2012. The inquiry resumed on Monday after a three-month break.

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters

As the head of Quebec's anti-corruption squad showed off a year's worth of arrests and raids on Wednesday, he didn't even try to hide his relief.

A year ago, Robert Lafrenière was under tremendous pressure for failing to produce immediate results with his months-old Unité permanente anti-corruption (UPAC). Quebeckers were confronting daily allegations of outrageous corruption, and were howling for justice.

Mr. Lafrenière smiled when reminded of last year's difficult media event, now that UPAC raids, arrests and fresh investigations have hauled high-level politicians and millionaire entrepreneurs into the courts. The work has also toppled at least three municipal mayors, including Montreal's Gérald Tremblay. (The arrests have yet to yield any convictions, it should be noted.)

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At the end of 2011, the investigators in Mr. Lafrenière's unit lacked desks and telephones and had yet to make an arrest. Quebec's corruption inquiry had not yet begun hearings, and weekly news reports were exposing a bewildering array of fresh allegations.

"We had just started. We barely existed. It was a new unit, a new structure," Mr. Lafrenière said in an interview.

"We've made considerable progress."

 

450

The number of search warrants executed: Nine targeted the former mayor of Laval, Gilles Vaillancourt, who has stepped down but has not been charged.

22

The number of current investigations. In several cases, Crown prosecutors are analyzing whether to lay charges.

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14

Construction sites under surveillance by UPAC as a preventive measure.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More

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