RCMP may be investigating Jaffer: businessman

OTTAWA – Former MP Rahim Jaffer may be the object of an RCMP investigation, a House of Commons committee was told Wednesday.

MPs were also told that 10 months after he lost his seat in the 2008 general election, Jaffer handed out an unaltered business card to a prospective business partner listing himself as the MP for Edmonton-Strathcona and as the chair of the national Conservative caucus – behaviour that a Conservative MP called "dishonest."

The latest revelations were made by Ian Harvey, the owner of a bankrupt business he said was victimized by one of Jaffer’s business partners, Toronto financier Nazim Gillani.

Harvey told the House of Commons government operations and estimates committee that he has been interviewed by the RCMP and based on the line of questioning by investigating officers, the RCMP appeared interested in allegations that Jaffer engaged in lobbying activities.

"I was asked to go and speak to (the RCMP) and I did – I shared what I had," Harvey told the committee. "They indicated that they were investigating Mr. Jaffer."

But Jaffer, in an e-mail message, said it was "news to me. For so long there have been so many people saying so many crazy things without any proof of anything, even I don’t know what to believe anymore."

Jaffer is not a registered lobbyist. The federal government has provided dozens of pages of e-mails and other documents to the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying which show that Jaffer was in contact for several months with Conservative politicians, political aides and federal government bureaucrats with different proposals in which he sought as much as $135 million in federal funding.

None of the projects he presented to the government ever received funding.

If Jaffer is found to have engaged in lobbying, as defined by the federal Lobbying Act, without having first registered, he could be face criminal charges. Convictions under the Lobbying Act can result in fines of up to $50,000 or two years in jail.

The lobbying commissioner refers a file to the RCMP when she believes there has been a possible violation of the Lobbying Act, but never reveals when that occurs or who she investigates.

Harvey’s statement that Jaffer is under investigation by the Mounties came after the RCMP’s media relations department had shut down for the day Wednesday. Attempts to reach Jaffer for comment were also unsuccessful.

Harvey also said that at the one and only meeting he had with Jaffer, in August 2009, Jaffer introduced himself as a veteran MP of 12 years, but also noted that he had lost his seat in the 2008 general election. Nonetheless, Jaffer gave Harvey a business card which indicated Jaffer was the MP for Edmonton-Strathcona and the national caucus chair for the Conservatives, positions he had not held since October 2008.

At the time, New Democrat Linda Duncan was the sitting MP for Edmonton-Strathcona.

"I don’t know what the motivation was to provide that card to me. Draw your own conclusions, whether it was representing there was more influence then there really was or it was just that he ran out of his own business cards," said Harvey.

Patrick Brown, a Conservative MP and former caucus colleague, was quick to criticize Jaffer for that activity.

"It is ridiculous that anyone would use a business card long after they had been dismissed from that position and that role," said Brown. "Clearly there was some dishonesty at play and obviously you were a victim to that."

Speaking during the committee meeting, NDP MP Pat Martin said Jaffer’s behaviour could be characterized as influence peddling – a serious criminal charge.

"That’s really the nub of it: Even if you don’t know much about lobbying, there’s a fine line between lobbying and influence peddling, and selling your influence as a public-office holder for a fee is a very serious criminal offence. Mr. Jaffer had been out of politics by that time but his wife was not."

Jaffer is married to Helena Guergis, the Ontario MP who was booted out of both cabinet and caucus in early April.

At that time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper also provided information about her activities to the RCMP and Parliament’s ethics commissioner. Harper has never said what the information was except to say it referred only to Guergis’ behaviour and no one else’s.

For her part, Guergis returned to the House of Commons as Parliament resumed after a week-long break this week – the first time she’s taken her seat as an independent MP – but avoided reporters both Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Guergis will not be reinstated into the Conservative caucus," a senior government official said Wednesday. "We have put that matter behind us."

When Jaffer appeared before the Commons committee on April 21, Martin had asked him repeatedly if he used his MP business cards after he was out of office until Jaffer eventually said: "I told you I never did those things."

Harvey said he met Jaffer and Gillani at a time when his business, HD Retail Solutions, needed $5 million in new financing to continue. Harvey testified that Jaffer said he was "in front" of a $100-million federal government fund to help with environmentally friendly initiatives.

Shortly after that meeting, Harvey received a note from Gillani saying he would be prepared to get HD Retail a low-interest loan. Harvey said Gillani never made good on his promise and HD Retail went bankrupt.

Jaffer and Guergis have been invited to testify at the government and operations committee on June 9. As a sitting MP, Guergis is free to refuse to testify but the committee can compel Jaffer to be a witness by issuing a subpoena.

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