A star witness at a corruption inquiry said Quebec's political parties are awash in kickback money, and being financed by a "clandestine empire" larger than he'd ever suspected.
The inquiry's first major witness, Jacques Duchesneau, said he believes 70 per cent of the money used by Quebec's provincial parties comes from outside registered donations.
Mr. Duchesneau, a former Montreal police chief and civil servant, said Tuesday that the problem is as bad at the municipal level. He shared one anecdote, from a source, that an unnamed municipal party was so awash in cash it literally could not close the door on its safe.
"This clandestine empire I'm talking about comprises links between the construction world and the illegal financing of political parties," he told Quebec Superior Court Justice France Charbonneau, who is presiding over the inquiry. "According to the testimony, we have before us a widespread and brazen culture of kickbacks."
Mr. Duchesneau described a well-organized system. He said political organizers would demand donations from engineering firms. These firms, in turn, would inflate invoices for work being done on public projects.
He estimated that, during his investigative research over the past three years, he found as many as 50 engineering firms submitting false invoices in Montreal alone.
The inquiry is exploring corruption and mob ties in Quebec's construction industry, a sector that has close links to representatives at all three levels of government.
It was Mr. Duchesneau's fourth day of testimony at the inquiry. He is being questioned about an incendiary report he authored while heading an anti-collusion unit in Quebec's Ministry of Transport.
Earlier in his testimony, Mr. Duchesneau admitted leaking the report to media because he was worried the Liberal government would ignore its troubling allegations about the construction industry's illegal donation to political parties.
He said the research he has done since then suggests the financing problem is even worse than originally thought.
"All we wanted to do was shed light on a problem," Mr. Duchesneau said. "But we're seeing the problem is much larger than the one we presented to you in the first report."