MONTREAL—Former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt was directly implicated in a system of collusion in the awarding of city contracts, the Charbonneau Commission heard Wednesday.

Vaillancourt’s reputation as a fixer came from Bahjat Ashkar, an engineer with the BAFA Consultants.

“When the mayor invented this system, it was to make sure everyone got a piece,” Ashkar said, adding that he wanted engineering contracts in the late 1990s and quickly understood the first step was to give generously to Vaillancourt’s party.

“I asked him, can I financially contribute to the party? He said yes, and I felt more secure,” he said.

Ashkar alleged it was Vaillancourt who directed him to meet accountant Jean Gauthier in 2000 to donate funds to PRO des Lavallois.

Ashkar said he gave—by intuition--$8,000 to $10,000 to Gauthier, weighing it to be the right amount to obtain contracts worth $400,000 to $600,000 in value. Eventually, Ashkar’s boss—Jean Leroux—had him stop donating.

Ashkar said Vaillancourt told him in 2004-05 to do his “homework” to obtain larger contracts, which he interpreted to mean his firm had not donated sufficient funds.

“There were four groups that couldn't be challenged: CIMA, Dessau, Genivar and Tecsult,” he said.

Ashkar said playing ball was the only way to assure business, so he played.

“It felt normal,” Ashkar said. “In time, everyone got their piece. Before the law (that called for public tenders on contracts) arrived, there was still work to do, which was called collusion.”

Ashkar said it was clear only one man was able to control such  a tight system of  collusion in laval.

“I find that it's the mayor who came up with the system where everyone had to wait their turn for contracts,” he said.

Ashkar said by 2009 contracts dried up and promises were not met and "I was disgusted, so I cut off all ties."

What set engineers apart is how they proceeded to pay the kickbacks to Laval.

Lucien Dupuis, formerly of CIMA+ engineering, testified that his company used cash from their coffee machines to pay for kickbacks to Vaillancourt's party, making transactions virtually impossible to trace.

“You had coffee machines on each floor, maybe three, four or five, at CIMA. The coffee was 50 cents. Say 100 or 150 workers cents, who take two coffees a day, that's $100 a day, $500 a week, $25,000 a year,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press