LAVAL, Que. — Former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt was among 37 people from this Montreal suburb who were arraigned Tuesday for what authorities call a kickbacks-for-contracts scheme.
Vaillancourt smiled at news cameras as he made his way into the courthouse along with other defendants charged with gangsterism, fraud, conspiracy and corruption.
Also appearing Tuesday were Laval's former city manager and engineering director as well as construction magnate Tony Accurso.
Their next court appearance was scheduled for Dec. 19. The Crown hasn't decided if all 37 defendants will be tried together.
The Crown was also expected to release six DVDs of evidence in the alleged collusion scheme that authorities say involved kickbacks to public officials in exchange for municipal contracts.
Quebec's anti-corruption unit, UPAC, says the cartel involved three distinct groups. It alleges one was comprised of contractors and engineers, another was made up of lawyers, notaries and an entrepreneur and the third included "a mayor, a general manager and a director of engineering."
Vaillancourt ran Laval for 23 years, usually unopposed, until he resigned last November.
Laval, a sprawling suburb of 400,000 people, is Quebec's third-largest city.
A series of investigative reports from QMI Agency that began in 2010 first brought attention to the alleged fraud.
Among the more shocking allegations were $15 million hidden in foreign bank accounts and a report that children were used to move cash out of the country through airports.