The man whose phone call brought down a cabinet minister is a former parking lot security specialist who suffered a spectacular bankruptcy last year and is known to boast of owning a tank and assault rifles.
Derrick Snowdy, 38, is described as a rogue by some he has worked with, and by others as a competent private investigator who delivered for his clients. He built a private security company with nearly 400 employees that did store detective work for major companies such as Shoppers Drug Mart and HMV, but the company went bankrupt in 2007.
Mr. Snowdy filed for personal bankruptcy two years later with more than $13-million in liabilities, including $2-million owed to Canada Revenue Agency, and slightly more than $11,000 in assets.
People familiar with Mr. Snowdy say that he has one of the largest private arsenals in Canada. One person said Mr. Snowdy, an avid shooter and gun club member, once brought a grenade launcher to work, and claimed to keep a tank in Alberta.
In an e-mail, Mr. Snowdy denied owning the grenade launcher and said he tried to buy the tank but couldn't.
Mr. Snowdy said Thursday that attacks on his credibility are irrelevant and that he has nothing to hide. He expressed surprise at being the centre of attention after it was revealed that it was his information, passed to the Prime Minister's Office by Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton last week, that led to the resignation of former status of women minister Helena Guergis.
Mr. Harper has characterized the allegations against Ms. Guergis as "serious and credible."
The Toronto Star reported that Mr. Snowdy had investigated Nazim Gillani, a business associate of Ms. Guergis's husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer. The story quoted Mr. Snowdy as saying that Mr. Gillani had set up shell companies in Belize for Mr. Jaffer and Ms. Guergis, and that this was connected to a "pump and dump" scheme that would inflate the value of stocks so they could be sold for a profit.
He also told the newspaper that Mr. Gillani, who liked to party with hookers and cocaine, claimed to have compromising photos of the couple that could be used against them.
In a statement, Ms. Guergis's lawyer, Howard Rubel also denounced the way that Mr. Snowdy gathered information on her and Mr. Jaffer.
Mr. Rubel said that "Ms. Guergis vigorously denies all of this man's bizarre claims, and looks forward to helping the RCMP demonstrate that they are completely false."
Mr. Snowdy declined Thursday to provide any details on the allegations of shell companies in Belize.
He said he has a list of the companies and statements from people who bought them. "I'm thinking it may be time to let everyone see the files," he wrote in an e-mail. "Too much bizarre speculation."
He would not answer specific questions about how the scheme was supposed to work.
A flamboyant character who drove a Porsche 911 Turbo leased to his security company, Mr. Snowdy has appeared in several court cases. In one instance, he launched a successful investigation of a parking lot thief in which he made a citizen's arrest, handcuffed the man and read him his rights from a laminated card he carried with him, according to court documents.
He once said that he was a troubleshooter who went to the scene of a problem to help security guards write reports to cast the incident "in a more acceptable way." He also described how a guard "might go about increasing arrests, essentially by deliberately escalating minor matters to major confrontations," although such a scenario was hypothetical.
Mr. Snowdy said initially that he brought the allegations about Ms. Guergis to the Conservatives because he is a member of the party. But Mr. Snowdy also called the Liberal Party last Thursday afternoon, the day the The Star reported allegations that Mr. Jaffer had opened the doors of the Prime Minister's Office to Mr. Gillani.
Liberals said Mr. Snowdy asked to talk to Michael Ignatieff's Chief of Staff, Peter Donolo. Mr. Snowdy told the receptionist that Mr. Ignatieff, who had just spoken publicly about the allegations, "had it all wrong," and offered specifically to talk about the Jaffer matter.
The Liberals, however, decided that they weren't about to get into these types of dealings, and never returned the call.
"Given everything that was in the news that day, that would be the type of call that would be handled very cautiously," said spokesman Mario Lague. "We didn't want to get involved in that type of a game."
Matt Clermont, a business associate, said Mr. Snowdy always received good reviews from clients. He doubts Mr. Snowdy would have exaggerated his claims.
"I've never known him to say anything like that without there being something of substance to it," Mr. Clermont said.
The two men shared an office when Mr. Snowdy ran Epic Protection Group. Mr. Snowdy built the company quickly, but a dispute with a former business partner, James Kinnaird, ended with accusations of wrongdoing on both sides. Bankruptcy documents show a liability of $11-million to Mr. Kinnaird, more than $50,000 to credit card companies and $140,000 to car dealers.
With research by Rick Cash and Stephanie Chambers