'Mr. Three Per Cent' says he never took a cut from companies

MONTREAL – The man dubbed “Mr. Three Per Cent” is telling Quebec’s corruption inquiry he never took money from construction companies in exchange for access to lucrative city contracts.

Bernard Trepanier has been identified by witnesses as having collected a cut in cash from construction contracts on behalf of a Montreal municipal party.

But the former Union Montreal fundraiser told the Charbonneau Commission today today that simply isn’t true.

He says he just sold tickets for fundraising events and that he didn’t get cash from engineering executives.

Trepanier says he was close to many of the biggest construction bosses in Quebec and also had contacts at just about every major engineering firm.

He earned the unflattering nickname “Mr. Three Per Cent” in Quebec news reports over recent months, as other witnesseses cast him as a central player in corrupt municipal political schemes. Witnesses described a cartel system where companies inflated the cost of public projects, and split percentages with the Mafia, corrupt bureaucrats and the once-mighty Union Montreal.

Trepanier said it wasn’t his wealth of contacts that led him to be hired to head financing for Union Montreal in 2004.

Inquiry lawyer Denis Gallant suggested Trepanier was hired because he was an experienced fundraiser who could fill the young party’s coffers.

Trepanier said he didn’t do any fundraising until 2004. His noted that his lack of experience led him to take the job on condition he not handle deposits or sit on the party’s executive or finance committees.

“I didn’t create (a system), it was already in place,” Trepanier said. “When you accept a post, it’s to do a job. I did my job.”

Trepanier admitted he solicited construction companies and engineering firms for funds using a list of firms that won contracts. He even says he took $200,000 from bigger engineering firms and $100,000 from smaller ones before an election in 2005.

But those amounts were spread out over years and not just for one election, Trepanier said.

Gallant described Trepanier as a “middleman” between construction companies, engineering firms and municipalities. Trepanier himself described himself as an opener of doors.

“I’ll also be suggesting later that you were a bagman,” Gallant told Trepanier.

He frowned as he heard the term. “That’s a big word,” Trepanier replied.

Trepanier has been accused of collecting a cut on contracts that was destined for the political party. Trepanier denied that on Wednesday. Another witness this week, ex-party agent Marc Deschamps, said Union Montreal never saw any of that money.

Trepanier was also questioned about contracts he had with engineering firms as part of his consulting company, Bermax.

Trepanier was paid money by firms like Dessau and SM, major Quebec engineering firms. The witness, who has no background in engineering, says he was doing business development, scouting and other tasks in exchange for money.

For example, SM paid Trepanier $45,000 in 2008. Trepanier said the money was to help an employee with their alcoholism and to supervise renovations on a company condo in Florida.

Trepanier said a laboratory gave him $30,000 to headhunt and find prospective business that might be for sale.

Bermax is no longer active, Trepanier said.