Club 357c, a high-end, members only establishment located on de la Commune Street in the heart of Old Montreal has become an area of focus as investigators allege that what went on there is important in terms of understanding the nature of construction related dealings for public sector contracts in Quebec. Investigators have stressed that the club itself is of no interest to the inquiry and is not accused of facilitating any wrongdoing.
The club has an annual membership fee reportedly of around $3,500, and even those who can afford to cough up the cash can only gain membership by being invited.
The club also keeps meticulous records of who comes and goes through sign-in sheets, even going so far as to record what people ate and drank.
It caught the attention of investigators last month and they decided to pay it a visit. Last Tuesday, an investigator began reading out names of those who had attended the club, and an earlier witness, former construction industry insider and onetime loan shark Elio Pagliarulo, had previously testified that he made cash drops there for former chair of the City of Montreal’s Executive Committee Frank Zampino, who is currently facing fraud charges.
The inquiry is looking into who met at the club, which was a frequent gathering place for construction bosses, engineers and elected officials, and what went on at these meetings. Thus far, in addition to Zampino, key names include Union Montreal fundraiser Bernard Trepanier and Luc Leclerc, a former municipal civil servant who has testified about taking bribes.
Often, these meetings were convened by either F. Catania Construction boss Paolo Catania, engineering firm S.M. Group International head Bernard Poulin, or Pasquale Fidele, president of Civbec who was an senior official at F. Catania.
In a statement, the club stressed its full cooperation with the inquiry.
“The 357c has collaborated voluntarily with the Commission and supplied the requested information,” it said. “It’s important to note that ever since its opening the 357c states clearly in its rules that it will co-operate entirely with all legitimate legal body if there’s an investigation into a club member…. It would be unfortunate and unacceptable if the actions of a very small minority of 357c clients had a negative effect on the image of the club and its members.”