03/26/2013 01:09 EDT | Updated 05/26/2013 05:12 EDT

'Mr. 3 Per Cent' testifies before corruption inquiry

After hearing scores of witnesses testify about the involvement of former Union Montréal fundraiser Bernard Trépanier in a contract-rigging scheme, the province’s corruption commission is now hearing from the man himself.

Bernard Trépanier, described by many as “Mr. 3 Per Cent” for the cut of public contracts he allegedly collected for the party, started his testimony before the Charbonneau commission by describing his historical involvement with federal and municipal political parties.

Since the public hearings started up again after the holiday break, the commission has heard from several engineering executives who have described Trépanier, as the middleman between the industry and City Hall.

With a few slight variations, witness after witness described a scheme that involved the firms agreeing to share in a fixed bidding process that allowed them all to have a share of the lucrative public works contracts.

The cost of admission, many said, was a three per cent per contract pay back to Union Montréal paid via Trépanier.

Some witnesses described making those payments, as well as a $200,000 lump sum intended to support the party’s 2005 election campaign, at Union Montréal’s offices. Others said they met Trépanier, at restaurants or street corners and handed over envelopes or briefcases full of cash.

The system worked with the collaboration of the former director of public works, Robert Marcil, who allegedly had influence within the contract selection committees.

Most of the witnesses said Trépanier acted as an intermediary, receiving instructions from former executive committee head Frank Zampino.

Both Zampino and Trépanier were arrested and charged with fraud and other offences relating to the Faubourg-Contrecoeur housing development in Montreal in May 2012.

Their cases are currently making their way through the court system.

Trépanier worked for the party from 2004 but left abruptly in 2006. Several of the engineering executives said the system went on even after Trépanier’s departure from the party and payments were still made through him.

A witness from the party, who testified earlier this week, however, suggested that those payments never made their way to the party coffers.

Marc Deschamps, the official agent for Union Montreal, said he believes Trépanier was pocketing the hundreds of thousands of dollars that was coming in from the engineering firms.

Deschamps told the commission that Trépanier was fired from his duties with the party in February 2006 at the urging of former mayor Gérald Tremblay. However, he said, that move was "just for show."