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Fraud charge withdrawn against Jaffer associate

NEWMARKET, Ont. - A Toronto businessman at the centre of a scandal that saw Helena Guergis turfed from the Conservative caucus had criminal charges against him withdrawn Thursday.

NEWMARKET, Ont. - A Toronto businessman at the centre of a scandal that saw Helena Guergis turfed from the Conservative caucus had criminal charges against him withdrawn Thursday.

Nazim Gillani was facing a fraud charge and a charge of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence in a matter unrelated to Guergis and her husband, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer.

While Gillani's legal woes would have received little attention otherwise, a dinner with Jaffer last September — followed by an over-enthusiastic email about access to the Prime Minister's Office — thrust him into the media spotlight.

Guergis was pushed from cabinet, caucus and ultimately the Conservative nomination in her Ontario riding over allegations she had used her position to further the private business interests of Jaffer.

The matter was referred to the Mounties in late April after private investigator Derrick Snowdy, who was probing Gillani's dealings, took the allegations to the Conservative party.

The resolution of Gillani's criminal woes came one day after the RCMP said it found no evidence of wrongdoing against Guergis or Jaffer.

In a statement Thursday, Guergis said she's relieved with the outcome of the RCMP investigation and requested a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"I think it is time for a face-to-face meeting between the PM and I," Guergis said.

"He can raise his concerns, whatever they are, and I can answer. I have never been afforded this opportunity."

Gillani's lawyer, Brian Greenspan, said outside court Thursday there's been "innuendo and suspicion rather than hard facts" in his client's case.

"Perhaps the result of the RCMP investigation now reported clearly in newspapers demonstrates the reliability of Mr. Snowdy," he said.

Assistant Crown attorney Jeffrey Costain told court that they were withdrawing the charges because there was no "reasonable prospect of conviction."

The fraud charges stemmed from a police investigation after a Rona employee named Alexander Wiafe transferred some $1.4 million from the company to a Hong Kong bank account. The transaction was not authorized by the company.

The owner of the account in Hong Kong, Xiabong Ben Wang, alleged that Gillani and another associate told him they would pay him if he were to accept some wire transfers and move the money to other foreign accounts.

The Crown said it could not find wire transfers or other evidence to prosecute Gillani. Wiafe pleaded guilty and was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison.

Greenspan said his client never knew about the unlawful source of funds.

"I'm not saying Mr. Wang and Mr. Gillani weren't engaged in some business transaction, it's just the source of the funds, which turned out to be the Rona source, was not known to anyone involved up to that point," said Greenspan.

Jaffer had been working with Gillani and the two met in a Toronto restaurant last September, several hours before Jaffer was pulled over for speeding, which resulted in cocaine and impaired driving charges.

Jaffer ultimately pleaded guilty to careless driving, was fined $500, and the more serious charges were dropped.

Gillani claimed in an email the day after the restaurant meeting that Jaffer would open doors in the Prime Minister's Office for one of his ventures.

Gillani has said he was being over enthusiastic in sending the email and that Jaffer never used those words and was never paid to do any lobbying.

Snowdy testified before a Common's committee he had no knowledge of any misbehaviour by Guergis.