Montreal

Laval closes 'dark chapter' as it recoups $60M lost to corruption

The city of Laval says it is turning the page on corruption a decade after former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt was convicted of fraud, breach of trust and conspiracy to commit fraud.

Gilles Vaillancourt, city's mayor for more than 2 decades, was arrested in 2013

A man looking down at papers in front of a microphone.
Laval Mayor Stéphane Boyer says city officials are reinvesting the money back into the community through infrastructure and a program to help young people, among other initiatives.  (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The city of Laval says it is turning the page on corruption a decade after former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt was convicted of fraud, breach of trust and conspiracy to commit fraud.

Laval Mayor Stéphane Boyer says the city has recovered more than $60 million — "all money that was stolen from our citizens" —  from individuals and businesses involved in the illegal political financing and corruption scheme that ran for two decades under Vaillancourt.

"We were able to sue dozens of people, dozens of businesses. Some went to jail … other were fined, were forced to pay back the money to the city," Boyer said at a Tuesday news conference. 

Since Vaillancourt's arrest in 2013, the city of Laval has put in place oversight mechanisms, including an ethics and integrity office, to try to regain the public's trust, Boyer said. 

"Recovering funds from corruption has become the hobbyhorse of the administrations that succeeded Vaillancourt's administration," he said. 

But now, he said, there will be no new lawsuits. The city has already spent more than $6 million to recover the total amount. 

"We believe that we have recovered all we can from the Vaillancourt era," Boyer said. "We are closing this dark chapter in the city's history." 

Still, five other lawsuits are pending, and the city could recover up to $20 million more. 

Simon Tremblay, Laval's legal affairs director, says the city won two-thirds of its cases and most were settled out of court.

"The big challenge was for our teams to make sure to identify the contracts that were passed in collusion and try to find what were the actual damages for the city," he said. 

However, Tremblay says it's hard to know exactly how much money was lost during the scandal because not all agreements were in writing.

Boyer says city officials are reinvesting the recovered money back into the Laval community through infrastructure and a program to help young people, among other initiatives. 

"Now we want to move forward," he said. 

based on reporting by CBC's Radio-Canada, with files from CBC's Lauren McCallum

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