Liberal leader draws link between Helena Guergis, organized crime

Michael Ignatieff is drawing a link between disgraced former cabinet minister Helena Guergis and organized crime.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff

OTTAWA — Michael Ignatieff is drawing a link between disgraced former cabinet minister Helena Guergis and organized crime.

The Liberal leader said Sunday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper should have questioned Guergis’s fitness for cabinet months ago when her husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer, was first charged with cocaine possession.

“What I want to know is did he call in Helena Guergis, did he say, ’What’s going on here, what is the nature of Mr. Jaffer’s business relationships, how could he possibly have been accused of cocaine possession, is there any connection to you in any way?”’ Ignatieff told CTV’s Question Period.

“Seven months ago, he should have been asking those questions.”

Charges of impaired driving and cocaine possession against Jaffer were eventually dropped. He was fined for careless driving in what the presiding judge called a “break.”

However, Ignatieff said the cocaine charge should have set off alarm bells in the Prime Minister’s Office.

“I don’t want to make false accusations but you don’t get cocaine at a corner drug store, right? You have to get it from somewhere, from someone and usually that means organized crime.”

Harper stood by Guergis, despite a series of embarrassing missteps and her husband’s troubles, until 10 days ago. That’s when a private eye alerted the Conservative party to allegations that a shady business associate of Jaffer’s claimed to have compromising photos of the couple partying in the presence of hookers while cocaine was being snorted. Investigator Derrick Snowdy also said Nazim Gillani suggested the couple was also involved in a stock fraud scheme.

Harper immediately turfed Guergis from cabinet and the Conservative caucus and referred the allegations to the parliamentary ethics watchdog and the RCMP.

In an interview with the CBC, Snowdy said he never met either Guergis or Jaffer and never saw either of them taking drugs. Indeed, Snowdy said he’s made no allegations against the couple at all.

His focus is strictly on Gillani, an alleged conman whom Snowdy had been investigating on behalf of a client — Dennis Garces of HD Retail Solutions — who claimed he and other investors had been ripped off.

“This isn’t about Rahim Jaffer. This isn’t about Helena Guergis. This is about a criminal investigation into the conduct of Nazim Gillani that, for whatever reason, has turned into a political snowball over one man’s criminal empire,” Snowdy said.

He said he passed along his information to the government because “you have a gentleman like that (Gillani), who is socializing and seen in public with a minister of portfolio, a former MP and, you know, there are issues that they need to be worried about for plain optics.”

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

Gillani claimed in an email the next day that Jaffer would open doors in the Prime Minister’s Office for one of his ventures.

Snowdy said Gillani boasted about having been a “financier or a banker for members of organized crime.”

“We made some inquiries and discovered that he was known to members of organized crime.”

Snowdy’s own credibility has come into question after it was revealed last week that he offered his information to the Liberals before speaking to a Tory lawyer and that he’s filed for bankruptcy, with debts of more than $13 million.

Snowdy, who is a card-carrying Conservative party member, said he actually first advised his local MP, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and his local Tory riding executive. His client then “suggested that perhaps it would be in the interest of fairness to offer up to the Liberal leadership the same information that the Conservative party would receive in a briefing from me.”

Snowdy left a message for Ignatieff’s chief of staff, Peter Donolo, who chose not to return the call.

As for his debts, Snowdy said most of it is not “real money.” Rather, it reflects an $11.9 million counterclaim to a lawsuit he filed against an employee he had fired for gross misconduct.