Corruption inquiry witness: Mafia controlled province's largest construction union
Published Tuesday, October 1, 2013 9:49AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 2, 2013 8:24AM EDT
A former union executive is explaining, in elaborate detail, how the Quebec’s largest construction union was controlled by high-ranking members of the Mafia and the Hells Angels, and that the union went out of its way to silence him, turning a blind eye to internal corruption while playing favourites in determining which construction workers were allowed to work in Quebec.
Ken Pereira was an executive with two unions, namely the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) and the Provincial Council of Construction Trades (International) who informed the media in 2009 after uncovering numerous irregularities in how the executives conducted their affairs.
His whistleblowing led to a lawsuit, and the FTQ ended up paying Pereira $500,000 to stop speaking out about the union's actions.
It did not stop police from investigating, and charges were filed against Jocelyn Dupuis, former FTQ-Construction director and several top executives.
In his testimony before the Charbonneau Commission on Tuesday, Pereira described how when he started working for the FTQ, other executives wanted him to concentrate on raiding his former union for good employees.
To attract more members, and to hold business meetings, Dupuis frequently brought people to the Onyx, a restaurant-bar owned by construction kingpin Tony Accurso, who has since been charged with multiple counts of fraud.
When not at the Onyx, Pereira said Dupuis was often at a strip club in Chambly.
He failed to reach the goal set for him, and decided to return to working for International. Overnight workers with International were not welcome at job sites.
Pereira said he tried to set up a meeting with Dupuis to complain about the situation, but could not do so unless he met Dupuis at a strip club.
Pereira said his experience there bothered him.
“Everything was free. They said, ‘Don’t ask questions about the money, about the girls, just don’t bother,’” he said.
Frustrated, Pereira took matters into his own hands.
"In July 2008 I went to get Dupuis's receipts at the accountant's office," said Pereira. He made copies and noticed they seemed ridiculously high, including $3,000 meals in Las Vegas, $300 breakfasts and $30,000 spent during a six-week period at Cavalli restaurant on Peel St.
“It was astronomical and it always involved top executives from the union,” he said.
Pereira said that he tried to complain about these false receipts and other obvious evidence that Dupuis was "was living above his means" but none of the FTQ executives were interested.
He then went to FTQ president Michel Arsenault to denounce the corruption, who laughed when the receipts were presented to him.
According to Pereira, Arsenault said he had never seen anything like it, and asked him not to go to the press while he investigated the matter, promising the union would take care of it.
FTQ-Construction and Dupuis soon made Pereira’s life difficult, wanting him to return the incriminating receipts. A close association of Dupuis revealed he had ties with the Mafia.
“Do you know who is behind this?” he was told, testifying that he learned Dupuis was close to reputed Mafia enforcer Raynald Desjardins, who is currently awaiting trial for murder, and that Dupuis’s criminal ties were well known at the FTQ.
“Everyone who was in a position of power at the FTQ was aware of what went on,” he said.
Pereira also said Desjardins likely controlled the workers’ union in the late 2000s.
“That's when I discovered that Jocelyn Dupuis was not the boss; the boss at FTQ-Construction was Raynald Desjardins,” he said.
Pereira’s testimony continues Wednesday.