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Former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt scrums with reporters outside a courtroom in Laval, Que. on Thursday May 9, 2013. The ex-mayor who once seemed unbeatable now faces one of the Criminal Code's most serious charges: directing a criminal organization.

Andy Blatchford/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A former mayor of one of Quebec's biggest towns who is charged with gangsterism and other criminal counts will have his preliminary hearing next summer.

Gilles Vaillancourt and 36 co-accused appeared in court on Tuesday on a slew of charges including conspiracy, breach of trust and laundering the proceeds of crime.

Vaillancourt was mayor of Laval, just north of Montreal, for 23 years until he resigned last November.

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The so-called "Monarch of Laval" stepped down after he was the target of scathing testimony at the Charbonneau Commission looking into corruption in the province's construction industry.

A witness accused him of pocketing kickbacks from construction bosses – something Vaillancourt denied.

At the time, the province's anti-corruption unit had also raided two of Vaillancourt's personal residences, along with his office. Investigators reportedly sifted through bank safety-deposit boxes looking for large amounts of cash.

He and the other accused were arrested last May by Quebec's anti-corruption unit.

Their preliminary hearing will begin next June 30 and run until Aug. 29, Judge Gilles Garneau said Tuesday.

The summer dates did not sit well with defence lawyers.

"Several of my colleagues disagree with the date of the (preliminary) inquiry, which would take place during the holidays of lawyers, judges and witnesses," said Louis Belleau, who is representing former construction magnate Tony Accurso.

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Another lawyer, Claude Girouard, said that "despite my 39 years practising law, I still need holidays."

"I don't want to sacrifice my house at the seaside next summer," he said.

Other lawyers said they had not had sufficient time to look at all the evidence. They have been given 22 CDs in all.

Garneau was unmoved by the various arguments, reiterating several times that the preliminary hearing will begin June 30.

The dozen charges against Vaillancourt include two gangsterism-related counts. One of them, directing a criminal organization, carries a possible life sentence.

The head of Quebec's anti-corruption unit said last spring the arrests followed a three-year investigation that included 150 witness interviews, 30,000 wiretapped conversations and the execution of 70 search warrants.

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