11/05/2013 12:10 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 10:52 EST

Union boss says Mob, bikers not in control of construction wing under his watch

MONTREAL - The former head of the construction wing of Quebec's biggest labour federation says he was happy to assist individuals he knew had criminal records by getting them solid footing in the industry.

Through witnesses and wiretaps, Jocelyn Dupuis has been a key figure at the inquiry looking into corruption in Quebec's construction industry as it probes the infiltration of organized crime into the wing.

But Dupuis insisted Tuesday that criminals weren't running the Quebec Federation of Labour's construction wing during his time as its director between 1997 and 2008.

In his three days on the stand, Dupuis has had to listen to wiretap conversations between himself and various people with close ties to organized crime, including the Hells Angels biker gangs.

Dupuis insisted he wasn't an intermediary between mobsters and bikers and the union's investment wing. The former crane operator said the industry has always given people a second chance.

He testified Tuesday he wasn't always aware of how high up some of those people were in the criminal hierarchy.

One of those he helped out was Raynald Desjardins, a former Rizzuto lieutenant who is currently incarcerated pending his first-degree murder trial in the slaying of a New York Mob boss near Montreal.

Dupuis said he knew Desjardins had previous convictions for drugs, but that he wasn't aware of his Mob ties. He thought Desjardins had paid his debt to society and was reformed.

"The past is the past, the future is the future," Dupuis told the inquiry. "When you've paid your debt ... your past is put aside and you try to reintegrate these people into society."

Dupuis admitted keeping Desjardins' name out of a pitch for cash from the union's Solidarity Fund for a company called Carboneutre, a decontamination firm owned by Desjardins and another man with Mob ties.

He says he hid Desjardins' identity from the fund members and the president of the labour federation because he didn't think they'd agree to fund the firm considering Desjardins' criminal record.

The fund ultimately never did invest in Carboneutre.

But Dupuis did introduce Desjardins to the man who ran the real-estate arm of the Solidarity Fund. In a wiretap played Tuesday, Dupuis could be heard telling Guy Gionet: "Thank you for taking care of my friends."

Commission chair France Charbonneau wondered how Dupuis couldn't know about Desjardins' ties to organized crime, given the media coverage surrounding his links to the Rizzuto family.

The inquiry has also heard Dupuis helped out another man, Ronald Beaulieu, a businessman police allege has ties to the Hells Angels.

Another person linked to Dupuis was Norman (Casper) Ouimet, a Hells Angels member involved in the construction industry who is currently in jail awaiting trial on nearly two dozen murder charges.

Dupuis said he saw them all as businessmen in an industry where contacts are always useful.

He ended up going to work for Carboneutre after his forced departure from the union when his allegedly bloated expenses came to light in 2008.

Dupuis now faces a criminal trial on fraud charges related to the expense claims. The Crown has claimed Dupuis manufactured false invoices, which netted him $125,000.

He repeated Tuesday he would have never permitted organized crime to infiltrate the union.

"I was never a member of organized crime," Dupuis said. "And organized crime was not part of FTQ-Construction (the construction wing)."