By JILL MAHONEY, KAREN HOWLETT
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Patrick Brown told a top Ontario Progressive Conservative Party donor to give $5,000 to the thenleader's girlfriend on the same day he agreed to let the supporter's candidate run in a controversial nomination race, according to newly unsealed court documents.
Mr. Brown was under "pressure" from the Indian consulate to reject the candidate, an individual whose father had alleged ties to Sikh extremism, the documents say. But Mr. Brown, who is now the mayor of Brampton, signed off on the candidacy on the same day that the donor provided $5,000 to his girlfriend and $2,000 to an unidentified individual for PC Party campaign work. The money, described as covering their salaries, was not declared as a political donation.
The court documents, which were unsealed after a six-month challenge by The Globe and Mail and CTV, shed new light on a criminal investigation into the most contentious nomination race that took place under Mr.
Brown's leadership. Despite discovering that 85 phony ballots were cast at a nomination meeting in Hamilton in May, 2017, police closed the fraud and forgery probe earlier this year after investigators concluded they could not identify who was responsible.
A Globe investigation previously found that one in four PC nominations were dogged by allegations of wrongdoing.
The party overturned the results of six races, including Hamilton, after Mr. Brown resigned as leader.
In an e-mail responding to the new revelations, a spokesman for Mr. Brown said "this situation was an unfortunate chapter for all involved," adding: "It is unfortunate that false, exaggerated and out of context snippets from an old closed investigation are being presented in this manner."
The court documents demonstrate the scope of Hamilton Police's nearly two-year-long investigation, which included obtaining multiple search warrants, forensic handwriting analysis, 1,800 ballots and internal party e-mails.
Among the 25 records is the lead investigator's 262-page information to obtain (ITO) document, which is a compilation of evidence presented to a judge to request search warrants.
The documents reveal for the first time that police were investigating multiple people as suspects, from senior party officials, including then-president Rick Dykstra, to volunteers. No one was charged and the allegations have not been tested in court.
The investigation was closed after consultations with a Crown lawyer.
In response to a request for comment from The Globe, Mr.Dykstra said in an e-mail that there is "no merit" to the allegations. "This was further confirmed through the exhaustive Hamilton police investigation which the party fully co-operated with."
According to a text-message exchange reproduced in the documents, Walied Soliman, chair of the party's 2018 election campaign, was so concerned about the possibility of rigging at the nomination vote that he told the donor, Gursharan (Bobby) Sidhu, to have two people carefully watch Mr. Dykstra and another staffer, Logan Ross. (Ms. Ross told The Globe she was not involved in any misconduct).
"Problem will be during the vote," Mr. Soliman wrote the day before the meeting. "Pls pls pls pls pls Tell the boys to watch the boxes." He went on to say that if officials refused to allow a second scrutineer at the ballot boxes that Mr. Sidhu should have someone "stand with binoculars looking at the box. One person not enough. ... Tomorrow is a war."
Mr. Soliman told police he sent the texts to alert Mr. Sidhu to problems with an Ottawa nomination meeting the day before the vote in Hamilton. Mr. Soliman said he had heard "rumours" and wanted Mr. Sidhu "to watch out in case something happened in Hamilton," the documents say. Mr. Soliman said he could not explain why he named Mr. Dykstra and Ms. Ross and was "embarrassed." Mr. Soliman did not respond to requests from The Globe for comment.
Mr. Sidhu, a paralegal in Mississauga, was a campaign adviser for lawyer Vikram Singh, one of four candidates vying for the PC nomination in the riding of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas on May, 7, 2017.
Mr. Sidhu told police that he met with Mr. Brown two days before the vote and that the leader, a friend at the time, asked for $5,000 for his girlfriend and $2,000 for the second person because they had done campaign work for the party in Sault Ste.
Marie, according to the documents. Sources have told The Globe that the girlfriend was Genevieve Gualtieri, who is now Mr.Brown's wife.
"He asked me as a friendly favour. That's all it was," Mr. Sidhu told The Globe.
"No political discussion took place during this exchange of favour."
Mr. Brown signed off on Mr.Singh's candidacy on the same day, the documents state.
Mr. Singh lost the nomination vote, which The Globe has previously reported was riddled with problems, including a printer that was secretly churning out fake identity papers. Days after, he complained to Hamilton Police. Mr. Singh also filed a civil lawsuit against the PC Party, which was settled in early 2018.
Asked if he was aware Mr.Brown solicited funds from Mr.Sidhu before approving his candidacy, Mr. Singh said in an email that the terms of the settlement preclude him from commenting.
Mr. Sidhu, who previously held a fundraiser for Mr. Brown and travelled with him to Dubai, said the $7,000 came from his personal bank account. He did not report it to Elections Ontario, he said, because he did not consider it a political donation. Mr. Sidhu told police he has donated thousands of dollars to the PC Party in the past and helped raise more than six figures through his business contacts.
In the ITO, lead investigator Detective Constable Adam Jefferess wrote that "Brown never mentioned that he would be paying him back," adding: "I observed a photo of two CIBC bank drafts for the amounts stated."
Mr. Brown had told Mr. Sidhu earlier that "he was not going to clear Singh because of the pressure" from the Indian consulate and the allegations surrounding Mr. Singh's father, Tejinder Singh Kaloe. The elder Mr. Singh, a leader in the Sikh community, was acquitted in Hamilton in 1987 of conspiracy to commit mass murder and overthrowing the government of India. He was named in the Air India trial as someone who spoke regularly with the man considered the mastermind behind the bombings.
The Indian consulate in Toronto did not return messages seeking comment.
Mr. Sidhu told Mr. Brown that "it was not fair to disallow" Mr.Singh, the documents say. "So Brown had asked him if he though [sic] Singh would win and Sidhu said no."
In an application for a search warrant, police said they were looking for "communications involving or relating to" a list of party officials, including Mr.
Brown and Mr. Dykstra.
During a search of two residences linked to an individual who worked as a scrutineer at the nomination race, officers found a receipt for a money transfer between Mr. Dykstra and the individual. The identity of the scrutineer, who was arrested and released without being charged last year, is protected by a court order.
"It is believed that Rick Dykstra and [redacted] were working together to facilitate the Fraud being investigated and this item provides proof of money being transfered [sic] between them," Det. Constable Jefferess wrote in a report to a judge on June 21, 2018.
Police sent 159 ballots that appeared "suspiciously similar" for forensic analysis. Officers interviewed dozens of apparent voters and confirmed that 85 ballots were fake. A cellular phone seized as part of the probe was also sent to a forensic examiner in Ohio.
In February when the investigation was closed, Inspector Dave Hennick said: "The Hamilton Police Service believes that a fraud took place, but we are unable to tie the fraudulent activity to any individual."
New documents shed light on a criminal investigation into the most contentious nomination race that took place under Patrick Brown's leadership when he was leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party.
FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
A Tuesday news story on former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown telling a donor to give $5,000 to his then-girlfriend incorrectly said Walied Soliman was chair of the Ontario PC Party's 2018 election campaign. In fact, while Mr.Soliman held that position when he sent the text messages in question, he did not serve in that role during the party's actual 2018 election campaign.