In 2008, the office of Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn hired a relative of Bruce Carson's then-girlfriend, a former prostitute who was convicted in the United States of money laundering, The Globe and Mail has learned.
Though she had no particular relevant experience or Conservative Party background, Sarifa Khan worked from March to September of 2008 as a ministerial staffer in Mr. Lunn's office, a job usually coveted by young staffers to Tory MPs.
Sarifa Khan is the niece of Barbara Lynn Khan and Saleemudeen Khan, a married couple who authorities say were the ringleaders behind an extensive, and sometimes violent, prostitution service in North Carolina.
After pleading guilty to money laundering and being deported to Canada, Barbara Lynn Khan started dating Mr. Carson in 2006, when he was an adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and purchased a condominium with him after he left the PMO in 2009.
Barbara Lynn's niece, Sarifa Khan, was in her early 20s when she was hired by Mr. Lunn, then the Natural Resources Minister, for a job with the title of special assistant, parliamentary affairs and a salary of at least $53,700.
As the Prime Minister's point man on the environment and energy, Mr. Carson frequently worked with Mr. Lunn during his time as Natural Resources Minister, and the two men had a friendly relationship. But Louise Girouard, Mr. Lunn's chief of staff at the time, said that neither she nor Mr. Lunn spoke to Mr. Carson about hiring his girlfriend's niece and that Mr. Carson wasn't involved.
"She applied for the job. I did the hiring, and they never discussed it," Ms. Girouard said.
It was Mr. Carson's ties to another former prostitute, Michelle McPherson, and allegations that he promoted her business projects to the government that spurred the Prime Minister's Office to report Mr. Carson to the RCMP. Ever since, more questions have been raised about how the 66-year-old's five convictions for fraud, bankruptcy and long-running debt problems did not raise security alarms.
Now, The Globe and Mail has learned that at the time Mr. Carson was an adviser to the Prime Minister and was dating Barbara Lynn Khan, her niece Sarifa managed to land a job with a Conservative cabinet minister.
There's no indication that Sarifa Khan had any involvement with Barbara Lynn Khan's criminal activities, but their relationship became close. Sarifa Khan's boyfriend, Shaun Hearn, referred to Barbara Lynn Khan as Sarifa's "stepmother" in an interview, and said Sarifa once lived with her aunt for a year.
In the government, several people who knew Ms. Khan said they believed she was Bruce Carson's daughter, or stepdaughter.
Neither Mr. Carson nor his lawyer, Patrick McCann, could be reached for comment.
Ms. Girouard said that the job opening was circulated in an internal distribution list for Conservative MPs, and that she received about four résumés. She said the job was comparable to that of a summer student, and that Sarifa Khan worked "assisting in the logistics of setting up announcements."
She said there was nothing unusual in hiring someone with no particular skills in the field or party background. "Well, it was a very junior role. So giving somebody some experience was what it was all about," she said.
One source close to Mr. Lunn's office said that, while the work Sarifa Khan did was akin to that of student interns, internal postings for a staff job in a minister's office usually draw a large number of interested staffers working for Tory MPs.
In a brief interview, Sarifa Khan's mother, Hasina Hiraman, was asked if her daughter was active in politics or had ties to the Conservative Party. She replied: "No, no, no. Not at all."
Sarifa Khan declined a request for an interview, but her boyfriend, Mr. Hearn, also said that she was not involved with the Conservative Party and merely applied for the position. "It was just a summer job kind of thing," he said.