Private investigator Derrick Snowdy arrives at a Commons government operations committee in Ottawa on Wednesday.
Ottawa — Globe and Mail Wednesday, May. 13, 2010
The man whose warnings to Prime Minister Stephen Harper led to the political downfall of Helena Guergis acknowledged on Wednesday that he never had evidence of wrongdoing against her.
Private investigator Derrick Snowdy said he was worried about the possibility of blackmail if pictures ever emerged showing Ms. Guergis in the company of Nazim Gillani, a controversial businessman facing fraud charges who had dealings with her husband, Rahim Jaffer.
However, he told a parliamentary committee he never saw any evidence linking Ms. Guergis to drugs or prostitutes, or ever had any concerns about her behaviour.
“The concern here is optics,” Mr. Snowdy said.
Mr. Snowdy raised his concerns with Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton late in the day on April 8. Government officials confirmed that Mr. Harper reacted to the warning the following day by forcing Ms. Guergis’s resignation as minister of state for the status of women and expelling her from the Conservative caucus.
A few days later, Mr. Harper said he acted after receiving “serious allegations about the former minister’s comportment.”
Mr. Snowdy, however, said he was surprised when he was contacted by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner and heard how his allegations had been represented in a letter written by Mr. Harper’s chief of staff, Guy Giorno.
“I said [to the Office of the Ethics Commissioner], no, I did not say that,” Mr. Snowdy recounted.
He said he then had an angry exchange with Mr. Hamilton, which included “a number of profanities.”
“I was not very happy with the characterization of that conversation in that context, and Mr. Hamilton was sympathetic to my call,” Mr. Snowdy said.
After the hearing, opposition MPs expressed concerns over Mr. Harper’s treatment of Ms. Guergis, with NDP MP Pat Martin saying her career was ruined based on “flimsy allegations.”
The government reacted by insisting that it had information from more than one source. In particular, the Prime Minister’s Office justified Mr. Harper’s actions by pointing to evidence that subsequently emerged suggesting that Mr. Jaffer sought government funds on behalf of other companies in Ms. Guergis’s office, or using one of her office’s e-mail accounts.
“All revelations have made it clear that was the right decision to make,” PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas said about Ms. Guergis’s ouster.
Mr. Snowdy called himself an “unwilling” player in the month-long controversy, but he drove up to Ottawa in a red Ferrari and gladly showcased it for television cameras. His focus during the testimony was Mr. Gillani, whom he had been hired to investigate last year on behalf of frustrated investors.
Mr. Snowdy accused Mr. Gillani of running a “shell game” involving companies, making money on “pump and dump” stock manipulations. He said that Mr. Gillani was using his contacts with Mr. Jaffer, a former Conservative MP, to create the impression with potential clients that they could get “special considerations” in getting federal funds.
The Conservative MPs on the committee sought on numerous occasions during Wednesday’s hearings to point out the fact that Mr. Gillani once hired lawyer Alfred Apps, the president of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Mr. Apps quickly issued a statement saying that the dealings with Mr. Gillani were short-lived, lasting less than two weeks, and that a retainer cheque was returned.
Mr. Gillani also fought back, issuing a statement and taking to the airwaves to defend his reputation.
“Mr. Snowdy has taken full advantage of immunity afforded by the House of Commons committee hearing to offer a mix of innuendo, political attacks against the Liberal Party, misinformation, insults to the committee and to me, and only a few facts that add a veneer of credibility,” Mr. Gillani said in a statement.