Criminal charges have been dropped against four people arrested in the sweeping Project Traveller investigation, including those laid against a man who tried to broker the sale of the first Rob Ford crack video.
Arrested by Toronto police last June, Mohamed Farah, 34, had initially faced five charges, including possession of a firearm, ammunition and proceeds of crime. The Crown, however, decided to withdraw charges against Mr. Farah, Nicholas Obeng, Muhideen Jama and Halima Said. Both Mr. Jama and Ms. Said were accused of participating in a criminal organization.
“The Crown has a duty to assess a prosecution at every stage of the proceedings, and is duty bound to withdraw charges if there is no reasonable prospect of conviction, or if it is not in the public interest to proceed,” said Heather Visser, a spokeswoman with the Ministry of the Attorney-General.
About 60 people were arrested as a result of the year-long Project Traveller probe that mainly targeted the Dixon City Bloods gang in Toronto and a gun-smuggling operation in the border city of Windsor. Many of the individuals arrested are accused of participating in the gang.
Some had ties to the Toronto mayor and boasted about possessing numerous photos of Mr. Ford using drugs, according to wiretap information released by the court last year. Police believe one of the suspected gang members, Mohamed Siad, filmed the mayor smoking crack cocaine in February, 2013.
Mr. Farah, who served as a youth mentor in the Dixon neighbourhood, has previously admitted that he tried to broker a sale of the Ford video to the Toronto Star and U.S. website Gawker, but the deal never went through.
Media reports of the recording ignited a firestorm at City Hall in May of 2013, drawing international attention to Toronto.
For months, Mr. Ford denied he’d used crack cocaine. However, after Toronto police revealed in late October that they had a copy of the video, the mayor admitted he’d used the drug, but said he did not abuse drugs or alcohol.
In May, he enrolled in a rehabilitation program, after two Globe and Mail reporters watched a second video of the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
Mr. Ford’s former driver, Alessandro Lisi, faces drug charges and an extortion charge for allegedly attempting to retrieve the first crack video. The mayor has not been charged and is running for re-election.
Most of the Project Traveller cases are still before the courts. The first group of preliminary hearings is scheduled to begin in October, when the municipal election campaign enters its final stretch. Information from those hearings will be under a publication ban.
Six of the accused in the Project Traveller case have elected to skip the preliminary hearing and head straight to trial. That trial is not expected to begin until after the election.