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Former aide to ex-Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum wore wire to glean confession

Former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum, who is charged with various fraud-related counts, arrives at the courthouse Monday, November 14, 2016 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

An ex-aide to Michael Applebaum testified he wore a wire in an attempt to help police extract a confession in 2013 from the then-interim Montreal mayor.

But Applebaum offered little in conversations with Hugo Tremblay that were played at Applebaum's corruption trial in Montreal on Tuesday.

Applebaum, 53, has pleaded not guilty to all 14 charges, including fraud against the government, municipal corruption, conspiracy and breach of trust. They stem from crimes alleged to have occurred between 2007 and 2010, a period in which he was the mayor of Montreal's largest borough.

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Prosecutor Nathalie Kleber has said she hopes to prove the longtime politician accepted cash in exchange for favours given to local real-estate developers and engineering executives in two separate projects.

Tremblay testified Monday he and Applebaum split the money in question.

The recordings were made after Tremblay had already agreed to work with police. Two of the discussions took place in person and the third was on the telephone.

Applebaum was guarded during each conversation — talking in hushed tones as he denied knowledge of anything specific and often reassuring Tremblay that police were casting a wide net.

"In order to charge you, (they) got to see the money," Applebaum is heard saying during the second conversation, which took place in his basement. "So they can come up with all sorts of lies, all kinds of bullshit, all kinds of things, but in the end, they have to have the money.

"If you don't have the money, then what is it?"

During the basement encounter, Tremblay noted that Applebaum tapped his shoulders and neck as if looking for a recording device, knowing his former aide had spoken earlier with police.

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"He protected himself, he was distrustful," Tremblay testified.

By the third conversation, Tremblay was telling Applebaum he had to co-operate with police. But Applebaum expressed surprise his former aide was involved in shady dealings and told him to pay him a visit in person to discuss the matter further.

"If you did something that was illegal, you have to take responsibility," Applebaum counselled Tremblay without acknowledging his own alleged involvement.

Just a few weeks after the final conversation, Applebaum was arrested, bringing his stint as interim Montreal mayor to an end.

He held the post between November 2012 and June 2013, following Gerald Tremblay's sudden departure.

During cross-examination Tuesday, one of Applebaum's lawyers, Pierre Teasdale, keyed in on a close relationship that developed between Tremblay and one of the investigators — Luc Lamy.

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There were frequent texts and calls between the two in the years after Tremblay co-operated with police and the provincial police investigator even bought his daughter a plastic doll for Christmas in December 2013.

The witness answered "it's possible" as Teasdale confronted him with a list of communications.

Tremblay insisted he wasn't promised anything before talking to police and didn't see the need for a lawyer as the officers were cordial.

Tremblay was later given a deal, in March 2013, whereby he wouldn't be charged without independent evidence for having helped police.

Since Monday, Applebaum has sat next to his lawyers taking notes.

Tremblay is back on the stand Wednesday.

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