After nine years in court, the case against Tony Accurso and four co-defendants for allegedly defrauding the Canada Revenue Agency has been dropped.
In 2012, Accurso and three co-defendants were brought to court. In all of their cases, the maximum time limit had been exceeded per the landmark Jordan ruling, which sets a 30-month limit between the laying of charges and the conclusion of a trial for superior court cases.
But the court had recognized the complexity of the case, which is why it allowed it to proceed for so long.
However, Crown prosecutor François Blanchette said he was obligated to ask for a stay of proceedings Thursday, saying the disclosure of evidence required by Judge Mélanie Hébert could not be accomplished within a reasonable time frame.
The former construction magnate was accused of having organized, along with businessman Francesco Bruno and accountant Francesco Fiorino, a scheme by which bribes of nearly $250 million were paid to former federal tax officials Adriano Furgiuele and Antonio Girardi to avoid paying taxes.
Accurso was facing six charges of fraud, breach of trust and using false documents, as well as conspiracy to commit each of those offences.
The defence had requested a stay of proceedings in January, saying the Crown had not disclosed all evidence — including 600 boxes of documents seized by Revenue Canada 12 years ago.
‘Hundreds of thousands of pages’
“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of pages, different formats, double-sided, etc. We can’t do the scanning, indexing, filing, sorting and everything just any old way,” said Blanchette.
“It is a process which is extremely costly in terms of time and resources…. Despite all of the resources, it becomes difficult to carry out. We are talking about several weeks in a context where the deadlines are already very advanced,” he said.
Blanchette explained that the Crown had been asked to digitize each of the documents, which could not have been done by the given deadline.
“We came to the conclusion that, unfortunately for us, for the State, that we could not continue the proceedings in this case. We must act like officers of the law and put our emotions aside and what we think is the best thing for the case … and act fairly for the litigants.”
—With files from Global News’ Victoria Bakos