The former chief of Quebec’s most powerful labor union and its billion-dollar pension fund denied being influenced by expensive gifts from a construction boss.
Michel Arsenault, left, the president of the Quebec Federation of Labour from 2007 until 2013, said during four days of testimony last week to a government panel that he returned expensive gifts to businessman Tony Accurso and paid for a $100,000 home renovation himself.
The Charbonneau Commission is investigating organized crime in Quebec and alleged ties between unions and the construction industry. It is also looking at campaign finance.
“Wiretaps indicated that Accurso was prepared to offer some help for the renovations but Arsenault ended up paying for it himself after media reported on a trip by Arsenault on the construction boss’ yacht,” the Global News said.
Last month, investigators released a picture from 2005 that showed Accurso scrubbing the back of Jean Lavallée, who headed the construction wing of the Federation of Labour.
Lavallée said he was friends with Accurso for 30 years. But he denied helping Accurso win construction business in exchange for bribes.
Lawyers for the Charbonneau Commission asked Arsenault about a Christmas gift from Accurso to Arsenault’s wife of earrings worth $12,000.
Arsenault, who headed the union and ran its Solidarity Fund at the same time, said when he found out the price of the earings he told his wife to return them, which she did.
“The gift came not long after Arsenault took a trip on Accurso’s luxury yacht, ‘Touch,’ in late 2008 . . . ,” the Global News said.
In a wiretap, Arsenault was heard describing the trip as an all-expenses paid “holiday of a lifetime.”
Arsenault said his wife paid for the renovations to their house in 2009. The bills came to $97,000, he said.
He admitted that the union’s Solidarity Fund had made big investments in Accurso’s companies and had an interest in the companies success.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.