In 2009, reporters at Radio-Canada and La Presse were probing Antonio Accurso’s affairs, including the long list of people who had vacationed on his luxury yacht. One of the guests had been the head of the Quebec Federation of Labour (QFL), Michel Arsenault, whose house was also being renovated by Mr. Accurso’s firm at the time. Here is a partial transcript of a telephone conversation between the two, which was intercepted by police and played at the Charbonneau Commission:
Accurso: Are you on a hard line?
Arsenault: No, I’m not, but they are investigating …We have to be prudent.
Arsenault: We have to be prudent. By the way, can you tell me to which firm I should make the cheque for the down payment? On Friday, I’d like to bring you a cheque for a down payment on the renovations.
Accurso: Okay, but you can wait until they are finished.
Arsenault: No, I’d prefer to put down a deposit in the circumstances.
Accurso: Let me check and I will come back to you.
Arsenault: Take a look, and I’ll cut you a cheque for $10,000.
After playing the recording, inquiry counsel Sonia LeBel alleged that Mr. Arsenault only offered the down payment because of the ongoing media inquiries and the questions that could be raised by the renovations.
“Let me suggest that … the only reason that you paid for the renovations is that you knew that the fact that you had been on the boat was about to come out, and that you knew, as the president of the QFL, that it was inappropriate for you to go on the boat and receive such a gift from Tony Accurso,” Ms. LeBel said.
Mr. Arsenault responded that he paid the total cost of the renovations – nearly $100,000 – out of his own pocket, as he had planned from the start.
During his testimony, Mr. Arsenault also acknowledged that Mr. Accurso had once given earrings worth about $10,000 to his wife for Christmas. Mr. Arsenault said he eventually urged her to return the gift, stating he “felt uncomfortable” with the value of the gift.