The man who once headed Quebec's most powerful union is insisting he returned expensive gifts from an influential construction boss and paid for six-figure renovations to his own home himself.
Michel Arsenault, the ex-president of the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ), is being scrutinized at the Charbonneau Commission's hearings over a cozy relationship between the union and former construction magnate Tony Accurso.
Arsenault began his fourth day on the witness stand by being grilled about expensive gifts and a nearly $100,000 home renovation done in 2009.
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.
Arsenault denied the media scrutiny had anything to do with him paying for the renovations and he says he has proof he paid for every penny of the work by using a second mortgage to finance the renovation.
Arsenault said that according to his recollections, the renovations cost $97,000 and he and his wife paid 100 per cent of the costs.
He said he also hired an evaluator to verify the bills after questions were raised about his expenses.
Arsenault, who also oversaw the union's billion-dollar Solidarity Fund as well as heading the union, has repeatedly been asked whether there was a conflict of interest in holding both positions.
Arsenault has admitted there was an interest in pushing for Accurso's companies to succeed because fund was heavily invested in them.
The inquiry has been examining the FTQ, its publicly-funded investment fund, and the type of sway people tied to organized crime had with administrators of the union's construction wing.
Earlier today, the inquiry looked at a 2008 Christmas gift given by Accurso to Arsenault's wife — earrings valued at $12,000.
The gift came not long after Arsenault took a trip on Accurso's luxury yacht, "Touch,'' in late 2008 and Arsenault says he was ill at ease when he found out the price.
Arsenault says he told his wife to give back the jewelry and she did.