Helena Guergis arrives to a committee meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday March 15, 2010.
Ousted minister and husband were at ‘social event’ with Nazim Gillani, spokesman
Ottawa — From Monday’s Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Apr. 12, 2010
Nazim Gillani, the Toronto investment financier who boasted that ex-MP Rahim Jaffer had opened the Prime Minister’s Office to his business, also dined last fall with then-minister Helena Guergis, a spokesman for Mr. Gillani says.
The dinner, at Yorkville’s Sassafraz restaurant last September – which was also attended by Mr. Jaffer, ex-CFL lineman Mike Mihelic who is Mr. Gillani’s business associate, and others – was the only time that Mr. Gillani met the former cabinet minister, according to Mr. Gillani’s spokesman, Brian Kilgore.
There have been questions about the extent of the contacts between Mr. Gillani and Ms. Guergis since the latter was forced to quit Stephen Harper’s cabinet last week, and the RCMP was summoned to investigate allegations against her.
Her resignation followed on the heels of a report that her husband, Mr. Jaffer, had promised he could help Mr. Gillani’s business projects obtain government funding – at a dinner on the very night, Sept. 11, when Mr. Jaffer was arrested and charged with drunk-driving and cocaine possession. (The drug charge was dropped last month, and Mr. Jaffer paid a $500 fine.)
Yesterday, Mr. Kilgore said Mr. Gillani and Ms. Guergis never had business dealings of any kind, and never attended any business meeting together. “It was just social,” Mr. Kilgore said.
“Naz confirms that he had had one social event with Helena. It was last year during the film festival. They had dinner – a group of people,” Mr. Kilgore said. “That was the one and only time they met.”
The gathering at Sassafraz occurred on the margins of the Toronto International Film Festival, Mr. Kilgore said. The film festival was held from Sept. 9 to 18.
That means the supper with Ms. Guergis must have taken place within days of the fateful night of that other dinner, at Toronto’s Harbour Sixty restaurant on Sept. 11, after which Mr. Jaffer was arrested. Mr. Gillani described the evening to associates in an e-mail as an “earth moving experience” that indicated Mr. Jaffer had opened the PMO “to us.”
The nature of the allegations against Ms. Guergis remain a mystery, because Mr. Harper has refused to disclose them.
He said he learned last Thursday of “serious allegations” against her, and asked the RCMP to investigate. A government source said they involve Mr. Jaffer’s business dealings “peripherally.”
Mr. Gillani’s business dealings with Mr. Jaffer hadn’t really got far, Mr. Kilgore said.
The two men were once involved in a small business-financing deal, he said, but their work on matters that involved dealings with government was cut short by events.
In addition to Mr. Jaffer’s legal troubles, Mr. Gillani was arrested last November and charged with fraud, for allegedly playing a role in organizing a fraudulent wire transfer. Mr. Gillani is to appear in court April 21, and intends to say little about the allegations until then, Mr. Kilgore said.
Mr. Gillani had intended to hire Mr. Jaffer as a lobbyist to help with government relations, but that never developed into “paid business dealings” because of events that followed. “It never got that far,” Mr. Kilgore said.
He confirmed that Mr. Gillani sent an e-mail to associates the night after the Harbour Sixty dinner, that reported “Mr. Jaffer has opened up the Prime Minister’s office to us.” Mr. Jaffer was one of the recipients of that e-mail, Mr. Kilgore said.
Mr. Jaffer is not registered to lobby the federal government, but he would not be required by law to register as a lobbyist until he contacted government officials on behalf of clients.
Neither Ms. Guergis nor Mr. Jaffer could be reached for comment, and e-mails and telephone messages for Ms. Guergis’s assistant and Mr. Jaffer’s lawyer were not returned.