Ultimately, it led private eye Derek Snowdy to a plain boardroom at a Conservative party lawyer’s office in Toronto Friday morning, where he laid out allegations that involved cabinet minister Helena Guergis, husband Rahim Jaffer and Gillani.
"I talked, they listened. They asked a lot of questions," said Snowdy, in an interview with the Star. "They asked me back the next morning and then by noon came the announcement."
The announcement was that Guergis was resigning as Minister of State, Status of Women and that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had kicked her out of the Tory caucus and called in the police to investigate serious allegations.
What those allegations are has been a giant mystery on Parliament Hill for the past week. The Star learned that private investigator Snowdy was the "third party" Harper said made the allegations. We contacted Snowdy and he provided details.
Whether the specific allegations Snowdy presented to Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP lawyer Arthur Hamilton are true is unknown. The RCMP have assigned Commercial Crime Insp. John Kueper to get to the bottom of the case.
The central allegation Snowdy presented is that Gillani, an accused fraudster, claimed to Snowdy that three offshore companies in Belize – a tax haven – had been "reserved" to hold cash for Guergis and Jaffer. Snowdy said he also told the Tory lawyer that Gillani boasted that he had cellphone pictures of Jaffer and Guergis partying with high-class escorts when cocaine was being snorted.
The Star, in its investigation of Gillani, has found that while some of the things he boasts about are true, often his boasts are groundless. He’s a big talker, bragging of ties to Hells Angels (sources say this is true); that his "Bloor St. office" is a strip club (true); and that he is able to get low-interest government loans (unknown); that Jaffer, a former MP, has opened up the Prime Minister’s office to him (Harper says untrue).
Guergis, presented by the Star with a synopsis of the allegations Snowdy made, emailed that she could not comment.
"Thank you for your phone call. I would very much like to answer not only your questions, but all those of your media colleagues and in due course I will try. I’m sure you can appreciate it is very difficult to answer allegations based on innuendo from anonymous sources. Nevertheless, I intend to defend myself to the fullest extent to ensure that the record is set straight," Guergis’s email states.
The Prime Minister’s Office has confirmed that a Tory party lawyer had informed Guergis of the allegations against her last Friday afternoon.
According to Snowdy, he began investigating Gillani early in 2009. A client alleged he had lost money in a deal. Snowdy will not identify his client.
"There is a reason the title is `private’ investigator," Snowdy said.
The client was a part owner of a company that had hooked up with Gillani, whose company International Strategic Investments purports to be able to finance business deals and take a company public. As Snowdy started looking into Gillani he found other businesses who, like the original client, claimed they had been the victim of a fraud by Gillani.
Snowdy said the original client remains too afraid to come forward because an associate of Gillani’s threatened the man with "a gun in his ribs." Also, Snowdy said Gillani has claimed he has compromising photographs of the client with a stripper in the VIP lounge at Club Paradise in Toronto. The client has told Snowdy that Gillani is blackmailing him.
The claim of compromising photographs is one the Star has heard from businessmen who have crossed paths with Gillani – others have been warned that there are photos of them, and a former bouncer at the club told the Star Gillani often spread around thousands of dollars in cash (all in twenties) at the club, and used his cellphone camera to take photographs of his guests with girls "between their legs."
The bouncer quit the club after numerous incidents, including one in which a stripper knifed another stripper.
Snowdy said the nervous client left him with no choice but to pose as a potential business contact in an attempt to gather more information on Gillani. Snowdy said his goal was to gather information to help his client retrieve money, and possibly help his client present allegations against Gillani to police.
Snowdy said he met with Gillani several times and Gillani made numerous boasts.
Gillani, said he had an "equity position" in Cachet Ladies, an escort firm in Toronto. (Cachet Ladies is the firm where Jasmine, Gillani’s girlfriend of the past year, works as an escort.)
Gillani said he liked to "party" with girls and cocaine, and enjoyed great service at Club Paradise.
Gillani also boasted to Snowdy (and others the Star has interviewed) that he had numerous "shell companies" offshore that could be sold to them as part of their ongoing partnership. Disgruntled businessmen have told the Star that Gillani is a "pump and dump" man – someone who takes a company public, drives up the shares, then cashes out and dumps the company.
Snowdy said that Gillani also boasted he was good friends with Jaffer, a man Gillani told Snowdy had great political connections in the Tory party.
At a meeting in the Spice Trader restaurant on Queen St. W. in July 2009, Snowdy said Gillani showed him a series of companies, and claimed that Jaffer and "his wife" had three companies reserved for them, all in Belize.
Further, Gillani claimed Guergis had "a contact in Belize that set everything up."
Snowdy checked and with a simple review of government press releases saw that Guergis had visited Belize in July 2008. Guergis was Secretary of Trade for Foreign Affairs and International Trade at the time.
"Gillani indicated three of (the companies) were taken by Jaffer and his wife," Snowdy said Wednesday, adding that Gillani allegedly boasted that government grants would somehow be obtained, which would help "pump" the stock to a lucrative point.
This allegation, first presented to the Tory party by Snowdy last Thursday evening in an 11 p.m. phone call, is not backed up by any document or other information the Star could find.
However, the Star did obtain an email Gillani sent to associates on Sept. 11, 2009, boasting that "Mr. Jaffer has opened up the Prime Minister’s Office to us and as a result of that dinner – he today advised me that he is just as excited as we are and joining our team seems to be the next logical step."
This boast from Gillani came the day after a dinner at Harbour 60 steak house in Toronto, where Jaffer openly told people he could help get government assistance. The Prime Minister’s office has denied that Jaffer has any access at all.
Early the next morning, Jaffer was arrested for drunk driving, speeding and possession of cocaine. The charges were dropped and he pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving. The source of the cocaine has never been revealed.
At one point over the course of Snowdy’s meetings with Gillani (there were at least three), Snowdy said he asked Gillani how he "could keep Jaffer in line."
Gillani waved his cellphone, implying that he had photographs to back up his story. "I party with Rahim and his wife and some of my girls."
Snowdy said he has turned information over to Tory lawyer Hamilton, including an allegation that both Guergis and Jaffer had used cocaine.
How did Snowdy come to do this?
Snowdy said he had previously tried to pass on some of this information to the police, both to the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP. Snowdy will not say when he did this or to whom he spoke.
After the Star published a story last Thursday detailing the Harbour 60 dinner, Snowdy said he realized he should contact the Tory party. Snowdy describes himself as a committed member of that party.
Snowdy called an aide to a Tory MP, who passed information up the chain, prompting the call from the Conservative party lawyer on Thursday night. Snowdy was summoned to the lawyer’s office the next morning for a second interview.
The RCMP’s Commercial Crime office in Ottawa has been asked to investigate. Snowdy said they have asked to meet him, either in Toronto or at their head office in Ottawa.
Gillani, asked for comment last night, did not respond. His recently hired spokesman, Brian Kilgore, whose website bills him both as a public relations expert and dog photographer, called and said Gillani would not be responding to the Star’s questions.
Kevin Donovan can be reached at (416) 312-3503 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Original article by Keven Donovan can be read at the following link: