10/25/2012 03:33 EDT | Updated 12/25/2012 05:12 EST

Montreal engineer has 'bitter regrets' about role in bid-rigging

The disgraced City of Montreal engineer who admitted to pocketing thousands in taxpayer dollars says he will never forgive himself for his misdeeds.

Gilles Surprenant, who admitted to being part of a kickback scheme on public contracts for nearly 20 years of his career with the city, was responding to cross-examination Thursday on what is expected to be his last day of testimony at the Quebec's corruption inquiry.

"I bitterly regret everything that happened," the former bureaucrat said under questioning by the lawyer representing Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay's Union Montreal party.

"I must say, for me, the past 10 years at the City of Montreal have been catastrophic. It should have never existed. I should have never accepted those sums. I should have never done that."

He maintained, however, that he was merely a participant in the alleged collusion scheme, and not the ringleader.

"There was an established system and I was caught up in it," he said.

Surprenant said he never considered giving money back to the City of Montreal. When pressed as to why, he said he simply hadn't thought of it.

Surprenant repeated he put his bribe money back into public coffers the best way he could — by gambling at the Montreal casino. He said his family has forgiven him for his wrongdoings, but said he will never forgive himself.

The former city engineer, who was at one time in charge of planning and budgeting for public works projects, has testified he received about $600,000 in kickbacks from construction bosses over a 20-year period. In most cases, the bribes ranged from a few thousand dollars to as much as $22,000 for each public tender he helped rig. He was also showered with gifts such as tropical golfing holidays, hockey tickets, wine and fancy dinners.