A star witness at Quebec's Charbonneau inquiry, Ken Pereira, has detailed how the Hells Angels and Montreal’s Mafia infiltrated one of Quebec’s most powerful labour groups, the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ.)
Yesterday, in his second day of testimony,which showed its executive director, Jocelyn Dupuis, was running up “astronomical” expenses.
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Today, Pereira told the inquiry that he turned to the police and an investigative journalist with the CBC’s French-language service, Alain Gravel, when it became clear his life was in danger.
'Like a scene from a movie,' Pereira says
Pereira described how he was in his car one day five years ago, when a mini-van pulled in front of him and blocked his way, and two men got out of the van and approached him.
“It was a bit like a scene from a movie,” he testified.
At the time, he said, he was under pressure from the wealthy and powerful federation to return expense claims and other evidence he’d stolen from union offices.
He said the federation’s top brass tried to buy his silence, offering him $300,000.
He said he was also told to shut up by a highly placed associate of Montreal’s Mob, Raynald Desjardins, who he testified was the man who really called the shots within the union’s construction wing.
Pereira said he feared the men in the van were there to do him harm. However, much to his relief, they turned out to be two officers with la Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force.
They told Pereira they were gathering wiretap evidence, and his name was suddenly coming up a lot.
“They told me my life was in danger,” Pereira testified, “that I’d been in the minor league. But I was in the major league now.”
“They wanted to know why, all of a sudden, everyone was talking about me.”
No one left to turn to, witness testifies
Pereira said he turned to the last union leader he thought he could trust, showing him the police officer’s business card and telling him all that had happened.
The man suggested Pereira had a drug problem and said he couldn't help him. Pereira said he realized at that moment that he was all alone.
So he agreed to cooperate with police, and he began feeding information to Gravel, with Radio-Canada's investigative show, Enquête.
Hells Angels fixed union election, Pereira says
Pereira also testified that organized criminals fixed the 2008 election for the union’s executive.
He said bikers were seen circling the polling station. Then a candidate not connected with organized crime suddenly pulled out of the race.
“He told me, clearly, ‘They forced me to do it,’” Pereira testfied, “and forced me to vote for their guy.”
“They,” he told the inquiry commissioner France Charbonneau, was Jacques “Israël” Émond, a powerful member of the Hells Angels.
Pereira testified the union leadership candidate who quit stands more than six feet tall and weighs well over 200 pounds — an imposing figure. But on that occasion, Pereira said, the man was slumped in defeat.
Richard Goyette — a candidate backed by Dupuis, the union’s executive director — won the election.
“Tehnically, there were new players [heading the union] but the same coaches were there,” Pereira said.
Pereira’s testimony continues on Thursday.
A commission lawyer has confirmed Dupuis is set to testify soon. However, whether he will cooperate is an open question. Dupuis’ lawyer has already tried and failed to get a publication ban imposed on Pereira’s testimony.