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Businessman Giuseppe Borsellino testifies at the Charbonneau inquiry looking into corruption in the Quebec construction industry Tuesday, February 5, 2013 in Montreal.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Quebec's corruption inquiry has shifted focus from Montreal city hall and shady real estate deals to the links between construction and union bosses.

Joe Borsellino, the head of Garnier Construction, testified at the Charbonneau inquiry about the generous gifts he showered upon Jocelyn Dupuis, the former head of one of Quebec's most powerful unions, the FTQ-Construction.

Mr. Borsellino bought Mr. Dupuis a trip to Italy and hockey tickets and gave Mr. Dupuis unfettered use of a luxury condominium for nearly three years in a building known for housing well-heeled Montrealers alongside mobsters and biker gang members.

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The construction boss insisted he showered Mr. Dupuis with gifts because they were friends – not in return for securing lucrative contracts using his union contacts, as counsel for the inquiry suggested. Later, he admitted Mr. Dupuis's job, from which he was fired in 2008, played some part.

"He's a friend, but it was also because he was at the union," Mr. Borsellino said. "But I didn't close the door just because he left the union."

At the beginning of his testimony, Mr. Borsellino maintained he only spoke to Mr. Dupuis about business one time. Yet the inquiry produced several wiretap conversations taken from a police investigation between the two men where they discussed at least a half-dozen projects. In one excerpt recorded in 2008, Mr. Dupuis assures Mr. Borsellino he will get a project over his rival construction magnate Tony Accurso.

In his testimony Tuesday, the construction boss repeatedly said he could not recall details and specifics. He adamantly denied his relationship with Mr. Dupuis ever led to him receiving public contracts. "We discussed things but it never turned into anything," he said.

Mr. Borsellino went further, suggesting Mr. Dupuis was something of a moocher.

"With all respect, Mr. Dupuis was close to me and perhaps was taking advantage of that situation. I'm a good guy, I let it go," Mr. Borsellino said. "He was no longer with the FTQ-Construction. He was a citizen without a job."

By 2009, Mr. Borsellino said he started to ease off on the gifts for Mr. Dupuis. It was also about the time a new anti-corruption police unit started investigating collusion in the construction industry. Several players have testified the system fell apart a short time later.

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