MONTREAL – A former construction boss dubbed “Mr. Sidewalk” at Quebec’s corruption inquiry has concluded his testimony by denying almost everything said about him at the commission — including how he got his unique nickname.
Nicolo Milioto, a 64-year-old former construction boss, had been described by earlier witnesses as a middleman who helped exchange cash between the Mafia, local political parties and the construction world.
He concluded his fourth and final day on the witness stand with a steady stream of denials. He became particularly livid when he addressed, without any prompting, the testimony of a previous witness who claimed Milioto referred to himself as “Mr. Sidewalk.”
Milioto was being questioned about an aspect of Martin Dumont’s earlier testimony when he vehemently denied ever meeting with Dumont, a former municipal and federal official who worked for Montreal’s mayor.
In that testimony last fall, Dumont claimed that the elder gentleman threatened to bury him in concrete and that when he struggled to pronounce his family name Milioto bluntly replied: “You can call me Mr. Sidewalk.”
Milioto said that never happened.
“I never told him my name is ‘Mr. Sidewalk.’ And my name, Milioto, is not complicated (to pronounce), even in French,” an incensed Milioto told the inquiry, his voice rising as he spoke. He said the first time he ever saw Dumont was on TV, at the inquiry.
“I swear to you, before God, that I don’t know him,” Milioto added. “He’s either mixing me up with someone else or he’s a professional liar and more.”
Dumont also claimed that Milioto threatened him at a later date when he questioned the high cost of a sidewalk project in a borough he worked at.
“You know, Martin, my sidewalk foundations are thick and deep,” Dumont said Milioto told him.
“You don’t want to end up in my sidewalk foundations.”
Dumont’s credibility has come under attack, with subsequent testimony calling into question the accuracy of some of his claims. He was even heard telling investigators that he’d made up another anecdote during his testimony.
Over four days, Milioto has denied even being aware of the existence of the Mafia — let alone the notion that he was in league with organized crime.
He said his relationship with Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., the recently murdered patriarch of the Rizzuto family, was strictly a social affair.
He was seen on police video delivering and counting stacks cash with Rizzuto.
Milioto maintained that he only ever delivered money for community fundraisers and on behalf of one fellow entrepreneur, but wasn’t aware what that money was for.
He called the notion of a Mafia tax an “invention.” The inquiry has heard that the Mob, civil servants and a local political party took a cut of between one and three per cent on rigged construction contracts.
“For me, it’s a lie,” Milioto said.
He denied collecting money on anyone’s behalf and categorically denied the existence of any kind of cartel in the sidewalk business during his 23 years at the helm of Mivela Construction.
On Thursday, he had trouble explaining why his business allegedly more than quadrupled over a four-year span before dropping rapidly after a crackdown on corruption began.
The city contracts his company received had a massive spike in his business, which, according to City of Montreal figures, went from receiving $5 million in contracts a year in the early 2000s to more than $20 million between 2006 and 2009.
Milioto called the numbers inaccurate and he offered to bring in his own books.
“I have nothing to hide, it’s all public information,” Milioto said.
He also could not explain, for a second day, why the majority of Montreal contractors in sewers and sidewalks all had ties to one small Sicilian town, his and the Rizzutos’ hometown of Cattolica Eraclea. He explained that the reason was probably because it was a trade his people knew well.
His often vague answers over four days met with heavy skepticism from the commissioners, who finally appeared to have had enough with Milioto’s constant contradictions of previous testimony of several witnesses who identified him as an influential middleman.
“Do you know how many people who’ve testified before the commission that you’ve contradicted on the stand?” asked commissioner Renaud Lachance, telling Milioto the count was already at four.
“All of these people dreamed these stories and decided to tell them on television?”
Milioto maintained he was not lying.
“I’m telling you my truth, it’s the truth that I’m giving you,” Milioto replied.
Milioto admitted to giving gifts such as meals and bottles of wine to certain city employees. In one instance, he laid concrete at the home of one city engineer, Luc Leclerc, who was never billed.
“It was just a little favour,” Milioto said. “It wasn’t a big thing.
But he said he never gave anyone any cash-filled envelopes and challenged the commission to show that he received any particular favours. His reasoning for the gifts were only to hopefully get quicker payments from the city.
In the face of hundreds of phone calls logged between Milioto and other competing bosses, he maintained that he never took part in collusion.
“I’m giving you my truth, my version of the truth,” Milioto said.