As he was moving from the world of policing to politics, Bill Blair held a small fundraiser in a private box at the Rogers Centre in Toronto last year.
The event featured a few people who wanted to help the former chief of the Toronto Police Service become the Liberal candidate in Scarborough Southwest.
The 2015 fundraiser has since come back to haunt Mr. Blair, now a Liberal MP, who has to reimburse nearly $4,000 in direct and in-kind contributions received at the event.
The fundraiser was organized by Francis Chantiam and featured Andrew McKay, a lawyer and former police officer. The two are among five men arrested by the RCMP last week on charges of fraud and laundering the proceeds of crime.
The RCMP investigation sparked headlines in March, 2015 – three months before the fundraiser – with stories in Toronto media that quoted police documents filed in court that mentioned Mr. Chantiam and Mr. McKay as being involved in controversial dealings at the Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA).
The three other people who were arrested last week – Karl Walsh, James Christie and Martin Bain – are police officers who were suspended by the Ontario Provincial Police in March, 2015, after public revelations they were under investigation.
The trio were senior officials at the time in the union that represents OPP members. The RCMP is alleging that they set up a sophisticated network of schemes involving secretly owned companies and offshore investments to defraud union members.
According to the RCMP, Mr. Chantiam of New Jersey and Mr. McKay acted "in concert" with the three former officials of the OPPA as part of the alleged scheme.
Mr. Blair announced the following month, in April, 2015, that he was seeking the Liberal nomination in a riding in his hometown of Scarborough after 38 years as a police officer.
Asked by The Globe and Mail about the fundraising event last week, after the charges were announced, a spokesman said Mr. Blair did not know in June, 2015, that Mr. Chantiam and Mr. McKay were being probed by the RCMP.
"Mr. Blair was unaware at the time of the fundraiser that there was an investigation into Mr. Chantiam or Mr. McKay. Upon learning of the news, Mr. Blair asked the riding association to return the donations and make a contribution to Variety Village to cover the in-kind donation," David Paradis, president of the Scarborough Southwest Liberal riding association, said last Friday.
The refunded amounts include $1,500 in donations from Mr. Chantiam and Mr. McKay, which are being returned to the Receiver-General.
The $2,411.16 donation to Variety Village – a fitness and sports facility for people "of all abilities" – covers the value of the "in-kind" donations from Mr. Chantiam and his wife, who organized the fundraiser in the luxury box.
Elected last October, Mr. Blair is now parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice and the Liberal government's point man on plans to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.