Liberal MP Raj Grewal told a party official last week that he had accumulated debt of more than $1-million and had a gambling problem, according to a source who was briefed on the matter.
Mr. Grewal held discussions last Wednesday with Liberal MP Mark Holland in which Mr. Grewal admitted he faced serious financial problems. Mr. Holland, who is the Chief Government Whip, relayed the information to senior Liberal officials, including members of the Prime Minister’s Office, the source said.
On Wednesday, Mr. Holland refused to discuss the details of his conversation with the Brampton East MP, citing the confidential nature of the exchanges.
But the source who received the briefing said the understanding was that Mr. Grewal had accumulated a “seven-figure” debt and had a gambling problem, adding it was not known to whom the money was owed. The source was not authorized to speak about the matter publicly and was granted anonymity by The Globe and Mail to give details of internal discussions.
Three separate sources told The Globe earlier this week that Mr. Grewal spent millions of dollars over the past three years on gambling, including at the Casino du Lac-Leamy across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill. The sources added the RCMP have been investigating the expenditures for months and are attempting to determine the origin of the funds. The Globe granted anonymity to these sources, who have direct knowledge of the RCMP probe, to discuss confidential information they are not permitted to disclose.
Mr. Grewal has not responded to requests for comment made by phone and e-mail in recent days, including phone and text messages on Wednesday.
At Mr. Grewal’s parents’ home in Brampton, Ont., on Wednesday, Mr. Grewal’s mother confirmed that he lives there and was in treatment. She said he has the support of his family and constituents.
“The family is with him, the community is with him,” she said, adding that he was not there to comment.
Mr. Grewal has yet to resign his seat officially, but Mr. Holland said on Wednesday that the paperwork is being filed.
The Conservatives and the NDP are accusing Mr. Grewal of having misused his position on the House of Commons finance committee of the House earlier this year by asking the RCMP and other law-enforcement agencies about techniques used in the fight against money laundering. Transcripts of committee hearings show that Mr. Grewal was particularly interested in the role of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), which collects data on transactions of more than $10,000 at financial institutions and casinos.
“How many resources does FINTRAC have to go after each little $10,000 transaction? If I’m money laundering, I’m not doing transactions in the millions to catch attention. I’m doing them at the $10,000, $15,000 limit to get away with it,” Mr. Grewal said on Feb. 8.
In the House on Wednesday, Conservative MP Alain Rayes called the situation “bizarre,” adding that “everyone is wondering where [Mr. Grewal] obtained the money.”
NDP MP Nathan Cullen asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau whether Mr. Grewal was removed from the finance committee and moved to the health committee in September because of the RCMP investigation into his gambling activities.
“He used his access to senior finance officials and money laundering reports to ask very troubling questions,” Mr. Cullen said. “Did the Prime Minister or anyone in his office find those questions so disturbing that they acted upon them?”
Mr. Trudeau denied having been aware of Mr. Grewal’s problems before last Wednesday.
“Last week, the member stated his intentions [of resigning] after informing us of the challenges he is facing," Mr. Trudeau said. “We agreed with the decision.”
Mr. Grewal is also under investigation by the federal Ethics Commissioner for bringing Yusuf Yenilmez, chief executive of construction firm Zgemi Inc., to an event during the Prime Minister’s trip to India. Mr. Yenilmez’s company also paid Mr. Grewal employment income while he was an elected official, and is a co-debtor on a vehicle loan for the former MP.
At the Zgemi offices in Brampton on Wednesday night, a man who asked not be be named confirmed that Mr. Grewal did work for the company, but declined to comment further.
A car registered to the company was parked in Mr. Grewal’s family’s driveway.