Former Liberal MP Raj Grewal was acquitted Friday of two criminal charges midway through his trial, as an Ontario judge ruled that the Crown had failed to present sufficient evidence to justify the prosecution.
Mr. Grewal was cleared on two counts of breach of trust after the defence asked in February that the court dismiss the case, saying the Crown had failed to substantiate the charges.
In a brief summary of her decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Sylvia Corthorn said that on both charges the prosecution had not presented evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. The allegations “can neither reasonably nor logically be drawn,” she said.
“There is no evidence to support an inference of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” she added. “I find Mr. Grewal not guilty.”
At the end of the brief appearance, the former member of Parliament swiftly hugged his lawyer Nader Hasan while Crown prosecutors Tim Wightman and Chantal Lefebvre left the courtroom declining to comment.
Standing outside the Ottawa courthouse with just a suit jacket in sub-zero temperatures, Mr. Grewal quipped that he couldn’t feel the cold. In a brief statement to reporters, he thanked his wife and two children – his “lions” – for their support.
“Vindication has been incredibly delayed,” he said. “There is a presumption of innocence in the criminal-justice system, but there is a resounding presumption of guilt in the court of public opinion.
“I have experienced this firsthand over the last four and a half years.”
The Crown had sought to prove that Mr. Grewal used his political office for personal gain, offering access to events with the Prime Minister and help with immigration files in exchange for large loans that went toward his gambling debt.
Throughout, the former MP has maintained his innocence. He left the Liberal caucus in November, 2018 after racking up significant debts to fund a gambling addiction and amid a police probe. First elected in 2015, he sat as an independent after leaving the Liberals and did not run in the 2019 election.
In September, 2020, the RCMP charged him with five counts, four for breach of trust and one for fraud. Three of those charges were dropped previously.
Mr. Hasan told reporters on Friday that the flawed case brought against his client was the result of police “tunnel vision” and “potential blinders.”
He said it is rare for a court to dismiss charges on a directed-verdict application. It means the Crown “failed to surpass the first true hurdle of a prosecution,” Mr. Hasan said, adding it was “fatally flawed” and saying he hoped it would serve as a “teachable moment” for the police and Crown.
Mr. Hasan said future investigations into alleged political corruption should have “an understanding of the diverse cultures and values that make Canada a country we can all be proud of.”
During the nine-week trial, the most salient evidence at issue had been that two Brampton-area businessmen who each provided a $200,000 loan to Mr. Grewal also attended events during Mr. Trudeau’s scandal-plagued trip to India in 2018. But neither stated during the trial that they expected such access in exchange for the loans.
Lenders to Mr. Grewal testified that it was not unusual for members of their community in Brampton to help each other with large loans. They described themselves as friends or family friends of Mr. Grewal.
The ex-MP no longer has gambling debt, has sought counselling for his gambling problem and has overcome it, his lawyer said. Mr. Grewal, a lawyer, is also subject to an Ontario Law Society disciplinary tribunal. Mr. Hassan said the allegations largely overlap with the criminal case and he anticipates a “swift conclusion.”
Over nearly five years, Mr. Hasan said that Mr. Grewal has sustained a massive financial burden to fight the allegations and charges, even as a person of “means.”
“The financial toll is colossal,” Mr. Hasan said. “For many ordinary people who come under the weight of the criminal-justice system, they don’t have those resources, and they get crushed by the system.”
Despite those burdens, Mr. Grewal’s lawyer said Friday was a “day for celebration and relief.”
“This is his first weekend as a father without the weight of these charges hanging over him.”
With reports from The Canadian Press.