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Aspiring political godfather Harold Peerenboom, also known as Harold Perry, has cut a colourful and controversial swath through Toronto politics ever since 1996, when he wheeled his vintage Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith into the chairman's parking spot at 60 Harbour Street, headquarters of the old Toronto Harbour Commission.

Appointed to the chairmanship by Transport Minister David Collenette, a long-time friend and indeed a former employee of his, Mr. Peerenboom steered the agency on an erratic course that ended with its dissolution three years later amid numerous scandals over the chairman's extravagant travel habits and extraordinary expenditures on such things as Maple Leafs hockey tickets and private detectives.

Between then and his emergence as a background figure in the latest John Nunziata controversy, the Dutch-born millionaire found time to play a key role in the scandal that appears to have destroyed the career of another mayoral candidate, Tom Jakobek.

Mr. Peerenboom first indulged his taste for politics in 1969, when he ran for city council and lost to a young unknown named Art Eggleton. But he remained a committed backroom Liberal as he built his private headhunting firm, Mandrake Management Consultants, into a highly successful business.

Mr. Peerenboom proved his loyalty by hiring Mr. Collenette when the future minister lost his seat in the 1984 election. But although Mr. Collenette ultimately repaid his patron with a job of his own -- chairmanship of the harbour commission -- he resisted Mr. Peerenboom's vigorous campaign to name him head of the Toronto Port Authority, the new federal agency that succeeded the old commission.

Three years ago, the city auditor reported that Mr. Peerenboom and his entourage, including his wife, had spent more than $70,000 of commission funds on junkets to the French and Spanish Rivieras. Under his stewardship, the harbour commission also spent $140,000 on hockey tickets and entertainment at the Air Canada Centre.

Around the same time that Mr. Peerenboom returned to private life, Mr. Nunziata, a former Liberal MP defeated in his second bid to retain his seat as an independent, moved into Mandrake's Bedford Road offices as a headhunting executive. Mr. Nunziata also worked as a city hall lobbyist and, according to Councillor Howard Moscoe, frequently offered Maple Leafs tickets to willing politicians.

Mr. Peerenboom re-emerged into public view last year when lawyers at the Bellamy inquiry into municipal corruption introduced evidence showing that MFP Financial Services flew the budget chief on a Learjet to a hockey game in Philadelphia in 1999. Mr. Jakobek denied being on the flight, and Mr. Peerenboom, a friend who was also listed on the flight manifest, corroborated Mr. Jakobek's denial when reporters asked.

Several months later, inquiry lawyers forced Mr. Jakobek into confessing that he had in fact taken the junket. Mr. Peerenboom provided them with an affidavit that likewise corrected the story -- that Mr. Jakobek was not on the flight -- he had initially offered to inquiry investigators.

Mr. Peerenboom is expected to testify under oath about his changing story soon.

In the meantime, he is expressing outrage at Mr. Nunziata's sketchy accounts of illegal backroom deal-making by unnamed political kingmakers.