Quebec police have issued an arrest warrant on fraud charges for the former head of the construction arm of the province's biggest federation of labour unions.
Jocelyn Dupuis is the former director of FTQ-Construction, an arm of the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, or FTQ, which represents more than 70,000 construction workers.
He faces three charges, including the fabrication of false documents, police said Thursday. Dupuis, who resigned from the union in September 2008, is now in Florida and is expected to report to police on his return.
Dupuis made headlines last March when it was discovered he ran up massive expense bills for food and drink. He claimed $125,000 over six months, according to expense reports and receipts obtained at the time by CBC/Radio-Canada.
On average, the receipts showed he claimed more than $4,500 a week for meals in restaurants. Dupuis said then that the expenses were all approved by FTQ-Construction's executive.
The arrest warrant alleges that Dupuis defrauded FTQ-Construction of more than $5,000 and that he produced more than 200 false documents related to expense accounts and restaurant bills.
Problems run deep
Ken Pereira, president of an industrial equipment workers union affiliated with the FTQ, said Thursday that he was pleased to hear about the arrest warrant. Pereira had made Dupuis' expense claims public.
"In some way, I feel vindicated," Pereira said.
The charges against Dupuis may be the tip of the iceberg, Pereira said.
"You have to understand that everybody at the executive, all of them, approved his expenses for the last 10 years," he said. "Right now it's a problem within the unions [themselves]."
The FTQ issued a news release Thursday saying union officials are co-operating with the police investigation.
Last fall, Quebec announced the creation of Operation Hammer to delve into allegations of corruption in the construction industry, but provincial police were already investigating Dupuis.
Call for inquiry
Thursday’s arrest warrant comes in the wake of allegations of intimidation and threats on construction worksites in the province’s North Shore region.
On Wednesday, Quebec’s Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis ordered Operation Hammer to investigate the allegations following reports aired by CBC/Radio-Canada.
On Thursday, Opposition Parti-Québécois Leader Pauline Marois reiterated her call for a public inquiry into the construction industry saying it is more important than ever.
"I hope that the minister will call Operation Hammer — but will he call each time that there is a case that will come up?" said Marois. "What is important for us is for the government to quickly respond to the call that has been made not only by the Parti-Québécois, but by all the parties at the national assembly, by many citizens, organizations, municipalities and professional orders."