OTTAWA – The private investigator who brought allegations to the Conservatives about former cabinet minister Helena Guergis says he believes the RCMP have begun a full-fledged investigation into the affair.
Derrick Snowdy told The Canadian Press that he met with Insp. John Kueper of the RCMP’s commercial crime unit on Wednesday in Milton, Ont. and delivered all the electronic and paper files he thought were relevant to the matter.
“It was my second meeting with them and everything has now been turned over to them and I think we can safely say they are satisfied and moving forward,” Snowdy said. “We’re already in an investigation. They said, ‘we’re in the middle of an investigation’.”
The RCMP did not return calls to their offices Thursday.
Guergis and her husband Rahim Jaffer, a former Conservative MP, are fighting allegations that range fro m illegal lobbying to tax evasion. They have consistently decried the allegations as unfounded, and based in innuendo.
Guergis was expelled from the Conservative caucus two weeks ago when Snowdy approached the Conservative party with details he had heard about offshore accounts allegedly set up for Guergis and Jaffer.
Snowdy said he gleaned the information while investigating an associate of Jaffer’s named Nazim Gillani. The most damaging issue to date for the couple appears to be the nagging allegations of illegal lobbying by Jaffer and an alleged breach of ethics by Guergis.
Guergis had sent a letter to a local politician in her riding urging him and the county council to consider a waste management project run by a constituent. Guergis said she sent the letter only after checking that Jaffer had “no business links or financial interest” in the BioDryer project. MPs and public officer holders are not allowed to use their position to further their interests or those of their family members.
But documents released by the government show that Jaffer’s company, Green Power Generation, had forwarded a summary of the BioDryer project to the office of Brian Jean, the parliamentary secretary to Infrastructure Minister John Baird.
Baird’s office estimated the documents were sent between Sept. 8-14, 2009. The Guergis letter of support about the same company was sent on Sept. 9.
And that same week, Jaffer was meeting with Gillani and other business contacts in Toronto to discuss the BioDryer project and the company that developed it, Wright Tech Systems.
Ultimately, all the players involved said the business arrangement with Gillani never went anywhere. Jaffer said he could find no “synergy” with Gillani’s company, which was more interested in helping companies go public and then selling them, and their talks dissolved.
Jaffer has said he never received any money for lobbying and that his company didn’t engage in that kind of activity anyway. The Commissioner of Lobbying is studying the matter.
But Gillani contradicted Jaffer on Thursday, saying he was led to believe Jaffer could get him government money for his projects. Gillani said he had seen Jaffer’s personal and corporate websites and “believed the information about government relations services” described there.
Those same websites caused a fury at a Commons committee grilling Jaffer and business partner Patrick Glemaud Wednesday over the allegations of illegal lobbying.
The MPs wanted to know why Jaffer’s personal website said he had provided Green Power Generation “with the business expertise in industry financing in order to help them secure support from the Canadian government…”
Jaffer and Glemaud said they simply sought information from the government in order to advise companies thinking of applying for funding. They would give the information they got to the companies and that was all.
But Gillani insists that’s not what he understood, and he’s prepared to tell MPs that next week when he testifies at the government operations committee.
In an email Thursday, Gillani spokesman Brian Kilgore said “… the spirit of Mr. Gillani’s understanding was that the experience of Mr. Jaffer and Mr. Glemaud meant that they could advance proposals, projects, ideas, etc. to both public servants and elected officials, with the idea that if government officials thought the proposals worthy, grants, loans etc. might be available, and advice, services, etc. might be available.”
None of the federal parties, including the Conservatives, appear to be giving Jaffer the benefit of the doubt.
“I would like to ask the Prime Minister, does he not realize that he bears some responsibility for the culture of deceit that envelopes the Conservative government, that gives special access to some, and denies others the same kind of treatment?” asked Liberal MP Bob Rae.
Harper and Baird underlined that no money was ever given to Jaffer.
“The government has put in place important laws to regulate the affairs of lobbyists,” Harper said. “Those laws are enforced by an independent Lobbyist Commissioner. If Mr. Jaffer or any other individual has violated those laws, I am confident they will be held accountable.”
The documents released by Baird’s office show that Jaffer and Glemaud made three pitches connected to the Green Infrastructure Fund on behalf of firms engaged in renewable energy and environmental projects.
They had also made inquiries through the offices of Gary Goodyear, the minister in charge of the Southern Ontario Development Program, but those documents have not yet been released.
Jaffer and Glemaud say the documents sent to the government were “executive summaries” – a precursor to formal requests for government funding. Glemaud said that had the government indicated the projects were eligible for funding, the pair would have registered as lobbyists to guide the proposals through the system.
Glemaud partially responded to a demand from the committee for information about the inquiries he had made with the federal government on Thursday, providing names of firms but decrying the “unprofessional and unfair treatment” he and Jaffer had received from MPs.
“After the grilling from the committee, I was approached by several respectable citizens from various visible minority groups who expressed their feeling that racism seemed to be the underlying logic for such harsh treatment of two young new Canadians that have not been found guilty of any crimes,” Glemaud wrote.
NDP MP Pat Martin said that the pair were splitting hairs over what constitutes lobbying.
“He was holding out either for a contingency fee, a success fee or an equity share in the company. Either way, he had an interest in the project that he was promoting or he was promoting it for a private interest of a company,” said Martin.
“If that doesn’t meet the definition of lobbying, then there’s something wrong with our Lobbyist Registration Act.”