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May 27, 2005
Morselli: Gagliano Was "The Big Boss"

The Gomery Inquiry heard the testimony of another colorful witness in the Adscam investigation, discussing cash payments and cronyism. Giuseppe "Joe" Morselli testified that Jacques Corriveau and Alfonse Gagliano directed the transfers of unregulated and unaccounted cash for fundraisers and politicians alike. Morselli admitted to keeping some of it for himself:

Former Liberal fundraiser Giuseppe (Joseph) Morselli told the Gomery inquiry yesterday that a friend of former prime minister Jean Chrtien asked him to intervene to restore sponsorship contracts for two music festivals.

After the request from Chrtien confidant Jacques Corriveau, Mr. Morselli said, he called the office of his long-time friend, Alfonso Gagliano, then the public works minister, and got half of the funding reinstated.

Mr. Morselli, a caterer and key figure in the sponsorship scandal, gave testimony that suggested he knew of illicit practices, but, when questioned further, stopped short of confirming them. His loose grasp of French kept several of his remarks vaguely cryptic.

He said he commonly saw cash being donated at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. But then he described it as petty amounts he would hand out to buy campaign workers pizza and doughnuts.

The "petty amounts" sometimes got as high as $5,000, which would keep an office well-stocked in pizza and doughnuts for weeks. Morselli admitted pocketing a like amount from Jean Brault that supposedly had been earmarked for Benoit Corbeil, but Morselli rationalized his embezzlement as a reimbursement for a similar donation he had already made.

Morselli didn't make as much of an impression with his testimony as he did with his personality, if the G&M account accurately reflects his performance. He sounded evasive and dismissive, while at the same time got combative with Justice Gomery, an odd reaction for someone who claims to have had no managerial responsibility for the machinations of Adscam.

Morselli did corroborate Beryl Wajsman's testimony in a couple of key elements. First, although the details didn't come out in Tu Ha's article, it sounds like the $5K that Morselli admitted pocketing was the same cash that Brault left on the table at the restaurant that some accused Wajsman of keeping. Wajsman's gripes about Daniel Dezainde -- mostly about Dezainde's racism -- also came up with Morselli:

Mr. Morselli admitted he got angry during a dispute with Daniel Dezainde, the Quebec wing director-general in 2001. He alleged that Mr. Dezainde made racist comments, calling his friend, fundraiser Beryl Wajsman, a "damn Jew."

"If I had a stick, I would have hit him. . . . It was the only time I lost my cool in several years."

Mr. Dezainde previously testified that he was so unnerved by Mr. Morselli he later sought RCMP protection.

That tends to establish Wajsman's contention that Dezainde had a long-standing beef with Wajsman, not one that came up after Wajsman's departure and based on Wajsman's heritage more than anything else. It also makes the argument between Morselli and Dezainde much more understandable and mundane, which reflects poorly on Dezainde's claims of intimidation. Telling off an anti-Semite is worlds apart from issuing Don Corleone-style threats.

Morselli doesn't appear to have moved the ball much in any direction, other than clear up some of the peripheral issues.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 27, 2005 6:59 AM

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