Canada
Ex-bureaucrat implicates two colleagues in Montreal bribery scandal

Luc Leclerc.

Credits: JEAN-LOUIS FORTIN/LE JOURNAL DE MONTRÉAL/QMI AGENCY

QMI AGENCY

MONTREAL -- A retired city engineer who has admitted to taking $500,000 in bribes says two colleagues did the same and told him about the scheme.

On Monday, Luc Leclerc told Quebec's corruption inquiry that Francois Theriault and Michel Paquette inflated the cost of municipal deals and split the extra money with contractors.

He said both men discussed the scam with him "quietly, but explicitly enough" that he knew what was going on.

Leclerc admitted last week that city contractors paid him bribes as far back as 1995, along with meals, Montreal Canadiens tickets and bottles of wine.

He took the bribes while he worked as a top bureaucrat in charge of overseeing construction sites.

Leclerc also admitted that he took a Caribbean golfing trip with Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto.

He initially refused Monday to apologize for his actions, reasoning that contrition won't undo the wrongdoing.

"If I had thought that having tears in my eyes during my testimony or a trembling voice or my head between my legs could change anything in the past, you can be sure that I would even have gotten down on one knee," he said.

Leclerc added, "I don't think people will forgive me."

The witness apparently had a change of heart just before he concluded his testimony Monday, offering an apology and a pledge to work with the commission in the future.

"I am sorry about what I did and I ask for mercy from the general population, to Montreal taxpayers."

Leclerc is the second bureaucrat to tell the inquiry that he fattened his pockets at taxpayer expense.

Leclerc's former colleague, Gilles Surprenant, testified last month that he took $700,000 in bribes from contractors between 1990 and 2009.

The scandals, and several others involving illicit campaign financing, led Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay to quit last week.

The mayor insists he only found out recently that top city bureaucrats were corrupt.

But Montreal's former general manager, Robert Abdallah, contradicted Tremblay in a weekend interview with QMI Agency.

He said he presented the executive committee with a report in 2004 that showed Montrealers paid 30% to 40% more for construction work than elsewhere in Canada.

Tremblay sat on the executive committee at the time.

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