Raj Grewal, the Liberal MP whose frequent, high-stakes gambling at an Ottawa-area casino triggered a police investigation, broke his week-long silence on Friday evening, saying he accumulated millions of dollars in debt, all of which has been paid back and can be traced.
In an 11-minute video statement, Mr. Grewal said that he began playing the card game blackjack in 2016 at Quebec’s Casino du Lac-Leamy, which is connected to the hotel where he lived when in Ottawa.
This habit caused him to borrow millions “solely from friends and family to continue to fuel the gambling,” said Mr. Grewal, who said last week he would resign as MP for the riding of Brampton East. In his statement, he said he will put that decision off until January.
He said every loan was in the form of a cheque, and that the debts have been repaid. He apologized to his family, saying they “bailed [him] out.”
“This has nothing to do at all with anything sinister except to feed my own addiction,” said Mr. Grewal, a 33-year-old lawyer.
On Nov. 22, Mr. Grewal announced on Facebook that he was resigning as an MP for “personal and medical reasons.” The next day, The Globe and Mail reported that his gambling – and the large sums of money wagered – had set off warning signs with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the regulator that monitors large transactions. Sources told The Globe an RCMP investigation that focused on the provenance of the money involved surveillance of Mr. Grewal. The sources have direct knowledge of the probe and were granted anonymity to discuss confidential information.
On Friday, Mr. Grewal said “every loan and repayment is transparent and retraceable. ... My sins are not ones based in corruption and dishonesty. They are borne out of human frailty.”
He also called announcing his resignation via Facebook “ill-advised.” He said he would wait until January to make a permanent decision, and that he is seeking help for his gambling problem.
Mr. Grewal was a member of the House of Commons finance committee until Sept. 19. In that role he helped review the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and questioned law enforcement officials about Canada’s compliance system.
At a meeting on June 20, he asked Finance Canada’s Annette Ryan: “Would there be a scenario in which a financial institution would provide what they think is a suspicious transaction to FINTRAC, FINTRAC would launch an investigation, but the individual account holder would never know that this was taking place?”
In his statement, Mr. Grewal said his questions were based on input from the Library of Parliament and his staff. “To infer that my motivations were unethical or that I was using a chance opportunity to figure out if FINTRAC was aware of my gambling is to stretch reality and take the situation completely out of context,” he said.
On Nov. 27, The Globe published a story based on public property records that said Mr. Grewal and his wife owned two condos in Toronto that they bought in January for $1.3-million. On Friday, he said they own only one unit, which they bought for $1.4-million. They had a $1-million mortgage, he said, not the $1.5-million figure in public records.
Mr. Grewal did not respond to questions about his statement sent via a family spokesperson.