MONTREAL – A former Montreal municipal fundraiser nicknamed ”Mr. Three Per Cent” denied Monday pocketing any kickback money from contractors and engineering firms.
Bernard Trepanier told the inquiry into Quebec’s construction industry he’s the victim of a conspiracy designed to blame him for collusion.
Several engineering firm bosses have testified they had to contribute to the coffers of the municipal party in power — Union Montreal — several years ago in exchange for public works contracts.
Asked by inquiry co-chair Renaud Lachance whether it was possible he kept some of that money for himself, Trepanier replied: ”Never. Look at my income. What’s mine is mine.”
Trepanier, who was a fundraiser for Union Montreal between 2004 and 2008, said he was being made a scapegoat.
“Well, I won’t crack,” the 74-year-old told the inquiry.
He earned the nickname “Mr. Three Per Cent” from Quebec media after other witnesses cast him as a central player in a collusion scheme.
Witnesses have described how companies inflated the cost of public projects and divided up the extra cash between the Mafia, corrupt bureaucrats and Union Montreal.
The retired former federal Progressive Conservative aide has maintained all he did for the party was sell tickets to fundraising events.
Trepanier has admitted to passing along information to firms from the city’s former public works director, Robert Marcil. The firms that received the information were those that donated to Union Montreal.
Inquiry lawyers also spent part of Monday looking at Trepanier’s business dealings and asking why he was paid large sums of money through a consulting firm he founded.
The inquiry has heard Trepanier took on clients that included engineering and communications firms.
His firm, Bermax, operated at the same time as he was working for Union Montreal.
Trepanier maintained his company did business development and lobbying, using his wealth of political contacts. Trepanier earned nearly $570,000 from one firm, Astral, in exchange for help installing advertisement billboards all over the province.
“But why did Astral need you to talk to a mayor?” Lachance asked.
Trepanier said the billboards generated income for municipalities because they were installed on public land. He said he was sought out because he was well-connected.
”So you were paid for your network of influence?” Lachance asked.
”That’s it,” Trepanier replied.
The inquiry also looked at phone logs showing hundreds of calls between Trepanier and high-powered Quebec construction executives like Paolo Catania and Tony Accurso.
Trepanier said the calls were for fundraising initiatives and had nothing to do with any so-called cut.
“Tony, he’s a friend,” Trepanier told the commission about calls to and from Accurso. He noted he spoke to Accurso just last week.
There were also dozens of calls between Trepanier and Nicolo Milioto, a sidewalk contractor who allegedly collected money on behalf of the firms — an allegation Milioto has denied.
“Was Milioto a buddy?” Trepanier was asked.
“No, just someone I knew,” was the reply.
Commission officials also confirmed that the next witness will be a onetime right-hand man of former mayor Gerald Tremblay.
Frank Zampino retired in 2008 and is currently charged with fraud along with several others in a municipal land deal.
One former engineering executive recently portrayed Zampino as the real power behind the contract-sharing scheme.
Zampino spent several years as head of Montreal’s powerful executive committee.