10/18/2012 07:19 EDT | Updated 12/18/2012 05:12 EST

Ex-Montreal City Engineer Spent $250,000 In Kickback Cash At Casino

A former engineer for the City of Montreal has testified at the Charbonneau commission that he received about $600,000 in kickbacks from construction bosses and spent about $250,000 of it at the casino.

On Friday, Gilles Suprenant told the inquiry he received the money from construction bosses over a 10-year period.

Surprenant told the commission he spent about $250,000 at the Montreal casino and lent $123,000 to another entrepreneur. He said he got a third of the borrowed sum back.

He also brought a total of $122,800 to the commission's investigators on Aug. 31.

"I had this money left over," said Surprenant. "I told the investigators … the money I have left over, I don't want it. I wanted to get rid of this money because, like I said, I've always been uncomfortable with this money and it was just bad memories.

"I was very happy to give this money back, it was like freeing myself from the last 10 years."

Surprenant was in charge of plans and specifications for construction contracts. He said he received his first payment from entrepreneur Frank Catania for a job in Westmount in the early '90s. He estimated the amount as $3,000 or $4,000.

The contract estimated to be worth $250,000 was for a water main system for the City of Westmount.

Catania allegedly bid $500,000 for the project and offered Surprenant the money to earn the contract.

"My first idea was to reject the bid," said Suprenant. "We didn't do this often, but when it happened we modified the project and returned to bidding. What happened here is that someone in the office knew the entrepreneur, Frank Catania.… He told me 'I know the entrepreneur, I'll arrange a dinner with him.'"

Surprenant said he did not remember the name of the man who worked in his office and introduced him to Catania.

He said he told Catania the bid "would never pass through the executive committee," to which Catania replied it was a "delicate project."

"If I remember properly, Mr. Catania told me 'The people who keep us from eating, we move them aside.' I was wondering what he meant by that. Personally, I didn't really take it like a threat, but it intimidated me a bit," said Surprenant.

Zambito allegedly gave Surprenant at least $100K cash

Surprenant worked for the city from 1976 until his retirement in 2009.

He is the latest witness to take the stand at the commission, which is examining corruption in the province's construction industry

In recent weeks, former construction boss Lino Zambito accused the ex-city engineer of allegedly skimming one per cent off all public contracts

Zambito said Surprenant took money so often that his practices were allegedly known in the industry as "TPS" or "Taxe pour Surprenant." (TPS is the French equivalent of GST.)

The former construction boss said he had given anywhere between $100,000 to $200,000 in cash to Surprenant in the 2000s.

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