https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2022/07/23/new-details-of-alleged-rapid-test-transaction-emerge-as-full-report-on-jerry-dias-investigation-is-released.html

A company allegedly bought $1.2 million worth of rapid tests from a third-party supplier promoted to Unifor employers by former union president Jerry Dias, according to a third-party probe into the controversy.

Dias allegedly received $50,000 from the rapid test supplier in exchange for promoting the pandemic safety tool to the union’s employers.

Chris MacDonald, his assistant, then filed a complaint to the union saying Dias gave him half of that money.

As previously reported by the Star, a summary of the investigation’s findings said the former union president subsequently tried to pressure the whistleblower into dropping his complaint and attempted to impede an independent probe commissioned by Unifor.

Dias’s lawyer Tom Curry has said the investigation isn’t credible, as Dias was unable to participate “because he was dealing with mental health and addiction issues.”

In a statement to the Star Saturday afternoon, Curry reiterated the investigation was “flawed” without Dias’ involvement but did not directly address a series of questions sent by the Star about the investigation.

“Mr. Dias has always been guided by the principles of the Unifor constitution. Allegations that suggest otherwise are inaccurate and I am confident a fair and impartial process would prove that,” Curry said Saturday.

On Friday evening, Unifor released the full investigation report to its locals, in keeping with a pledge to ensure full transparency with members.

The full report includes further details about the controversy that has rocked Canada’s largest private-sector union, which represents more than 315,000 workers across the country, including Toronto Star employees.

Some details, such as the name of the rapid test supplier and employers who purchased tests, are redacted in the report.

The report is based on witness interviews and documentary evidence such as call logs, emails and text messages. While investigators noted it was challenging to corroborate all of the whistleblower’s testimony because Dias did not participate, MacDonald’s evidence was deemed credible based on his conduct throughout the investigation and evidence from two other interviewees.

According to witness testimony, two unnamed individuals — identified only as Person A and Person B — expressed an interest in “building a relationship with Unifor” for “one of their business ventures” as early as November 2021.

Dias, meanwhile, allegedly told MacDonald that it was “good” for the union to maintain relationships with “rich people” like Person A, who could “help” Unifor members, investigators heard.

In late 2021, Person A’s business had “acquired access to shipments of (rapid) tests” and asked whether any Unifor employers might be interested in purchasing them, investigators heard.

According to MacDonald’s evidence, he circulated information about the rapid tests to several employers at the instruction of Dias. His role was “essentially just to make introductions,” according to his testimony.

After an employer allegedly agreed to purchase 100,000 tests — worth $1.2 million — MacDonald was contacted by Person B and told he’d be rewarded for his efforts, investigators heard.

MacDonald rejected the overture and told the individual that he had made introductions “for the benefit of Unifor employers and employees” and did not want compensation, the investigation found.

By mid-January, Dias had allegedly received a “grocery bag” filled with $50,000 from Person A at the rapid test supplier, the report says. Investigators heard that, with an estimated $3 markup on each test, the supplier may have made upwards of $300,000 from selling the rapid tests.

MacDonald told Dias they should not accept the $50,000 and suggested giving it to a woman’s shelter, the investigation found.

But the union president “pressured” MacDonald to take half the funds, and suggested he could use it to buy Dias’s boat, according to the findings.

After offering MacDonald the cash, Dias allegedly instructed him not to tell anyone about it as it was “huge and confidential,” MacDonald told investigators, according to the report.

MacDonald notified the union, which took custody of the money and an engraved bottle of Hermes cologne sent from the rapid test supplier and handed them over to the police, according to the report.

The report said Dias at one point allegedly told a senior staffer that he had made a mistake and shouldn’t have taken the money, according to witness testimony. Dias told another assistant that he had returned the funds, investigators heard.

According to the report, Dias was known to be “volatile,” was used to getting his way — and was “mad” that national secretary-treasurer Lana Payne initiated a third-party probe of the kickback allegations, investigators heard from witnesses.

Toronto police have said their financial crimes unit is now investigating the allegations.

Last December, as the Omicron wave prompted a scramble for rapid tests, Ontario’s Minister of Government and Consumer Services issued a warning to “unscrupulous” businesses against the illegal resale of tests they received free of cost from the government.

In Ontario, workplaces are eligible to receive free tests through the Rapid Antigen Screening Program.

It is unclear where the rapid test supplier at the centre of the Unifor controversy obtained its tests, but the investigation says they were “Health Canada approved.”

“An independent, impartial investigation was proper and necessary to address this serious charge of wrongdoing at the very top of the union,” Quebec Director Daniel Cloutier wrote in an emailed statement on behalf of Unifor Wednesday.

Because Dias did not participate, the investigations’ findings were made without the benefit of his evidence, the report notes. The investigation found that on the “balance of probabilities,” Dias breached the union’s code of ethics.

In board meeting minutes, some Unifor executives said the scandal was not in keeping with Dias’s character, noting his recent health issues. Cloutier noted that no other alleged improprieties by Dias have been identified.

As previously reported by the Star, a psychiatric assessment prepared for Dias’s lawyer described the former president as struggling with substance abuse issues and pressure over his impending retirement, as well as sciatica.

With files from Wendy Gillis

Sara Mojtehedzadeh is a Toronto-based reporter covering work and wealth on the Star’s investigations team. Follow her on Twitter: @saramojtehedz

Rosa Saba is a Toronto-based business reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rosajsaba