MONTREAL — Montreal's interim mayor, who vowed to clean up the corruption scandals rocking the city, now faces fraud charges himself.
Michael Applebaum faces 14 charges, including defrauding the government and corruption in municipal affairs. He was arrested at his home early Monday.
Applebaum took over as interim mayor of Canada's second-largest city last November, after former mayor Gerald Tremblay resigned amid corruption allegations.
"The corruption and collusion will no longer be tolerated," Robert Lafreniere, the head of Quebec's anti-corruption unit, told a news conference Monday.
"No one is above the law and you cannot hide from the law."
Applebaum, 50, is the latest in a long list of Quebec politicians and businesses to come under scrutiny in recent months.
The province is enduring a high-profile public inquiry that has uncovered links between the construction industry and organized crime.
The charges against Applebaum stem from alleged acts that occurred before he became mayor. While officials offered few details, they said the charges relate to real estate projects between 2006 and 2011, when he served as borough mayor.
Now, local politicians and Quebec's provincial government are calling on Applebaum to step down.
Jean-François Lisee, the provincial cabinet minister responsible for the city, told reporters Monday Applebaum should do "the responsible thing" for the good of the city.
Denis Coderre, a longtime federal politician and a mayoral candidate in the fall election, said Montrealers shouldn't get too discouraged.
"The rotten apples, they'll be taken out," he told reporters. "But we can't put everyone in the same basket."
Applebaum had promised not to run in the upcoming election, slated for this November. But his appointment was enough to make history: he became the first Anglophone mayor of the city in exactly 100 years.
Signs of trouble arrived soon afterward.
Anti-corruption officials raided City Hall last February. They also targeted offices in various boroughs, including the one Applebaum represented for many years.
Applebaum has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
His arrest comes just a month after Gilles Vaillancourt, the former longtime mayor of neighboring Laval, was arrested on corruption charges.
The provincial police allege that Vaillancourt's city government was essentially a criminal organization, with officials there allegedly enriching themselves off local construction deals.
The situation was so bad that the Quebec government placed Laval under trusteeship.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois said that step won't be required in Montreal.
Responding to a reporter's question about whether Applebaum should step down, Marois said "I don't think he really has a choice."
Danielle Pilette, a political scientist at the Universite de Quebec a Montreal, said Applebaum's arrest is further evidence of how deep the city's corruption problem goes.
"It shows that these corruption allegations are not only in the outer suburbs, as we've seen before, but also in the heart of the city," Pilette said, referring to Applebaum's central borough of Cote-des-Neiges-NDG.
In the neighboring province of Ontario, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is embroiled is his own scandal, amid allegations that the leader of Canada's largest city appeared in a video smoking crack cocaine. The video has not been released publicly.
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