The Prime Minister’s Office learned over the weekend of Nov. 17 that police were asking questions about the financial affairs of Raj Grewal, which prompted meetings with the Liberal MP, who gradually revealed the extent of his gambling problem and the size of his debt, Liberal sources say.
The sources said that the information came from people in the Greater Toronto Area. The sources did not provide further details.
A source said Mr. Grewal was already aware police were asking about him at the time of the first meeting with senior PMO officials on Monday, Nov. 19. At that meeting, sources said, Mr. Grewal suggested he would receive treatment for his gambling problem and that he could manage his debt.
Members of the PMO and other Liberal officials independently verified the information from Mr. Grewal. By Wednesday, Nov. 21, it had become clear that Mr. Grewal was struggling to deal with debt that totalled more than $1-million, said the sources, who were granted anonymity by The Globe and Mail because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Mr. Grewal announced on Nov. 22 that he would resign as the MP for Brampton East. He has yet to quit his seat officially, fuelling questions about his intentions from opposition politicians, who have also asked when the PMO knew about the police investigation, and how much it knew.
The sources said the RCMP asked the PMO about Mr. Grewal in late winter or early spring of this year. The questions focused on Mr. Grewal’s role in bringing Yusuf Yenilmez, chief executive of construction firm Zgemi Inc., to an event featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in India in February. Mr. Yenilmez’s company paid Mr. Grewal employment income while he was an MP, and is a co-debtor on a vehicle loan.
The Liberal sources said they had no inkling at the time that the RCMP’s investigation went beyond the single event, which had already been the topic of media coverage as well as a complaint to the Ethics Commissioner.
The RCMP have been investigating Mr. Grewal’s gambling activities for months, trying to find the origin of millions of dollars spent over the past three years, including at a casino across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the investigation to whom The Globe and Mail granted anonymity to discuss information they are not permitted to disclose.
Mr. Grewal has not responded to attempts to reach him in recent days, including phone and e-mail messages on Thursday.
When Mr. Grewal announced his resignation in a Facebook post on Nov. 22, he explained his move with a reference to “personal and medical reasons.”
“This has been a decision I’ve struggled with for some time now and one I made with great difficulty and real sadness. But I feel I need this time to focus on my health and family,” he wrote.
The PMO subsequently said Mr. Grewal was facing “serious personal challenges,” pointing to a gambling problem and the accumulation of “significant personal debt.”
Among his debts, Mr. Grewal had a mortgage of $1,499,999 with his wife, Shikha Kasal, on a condo suite in Toronto. This past summer, a Brampton, Ont.-based numbered company, 2206492 Ontario Inc., placed a lien against the suite. Ms. Kasal was discharged from the lien on Nov. 16, less than a week before Mr. Grewal resigned, meaning she is no longer accountable for it.
The office of the Speaker of the House said on Thursday it has yet to receive a formal notice of Mr. Grewal’s departure.
During Question Period on Thursday, the Conservatives and the NDP asked exactly when the PMO learned about the investigation into Mr. Grewal.
“Does the Prime Minister really expect us to believe that an investigation of this nature would not have been red flagged to his office?” Conservative MP Mark Strahl asked.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen added: “How do Liberals expect us to believe they saw nothing to worry about and that the media somehow know more about this scandal than the Prime Minister’s own office does?”
Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger responded to all questions by stating the information on the investigation was received the previous week, which is in accordance with the timeline offered by other Liberal officials.
“The member knows very well that the government does not direct investigations of this nature,” Ms. Chagger said in response to Mr. Strahl’s question.