Par­lia­men­tary ethics of­fice opens probe into Lib­eral MP Raj Gre­wal.

Con­cerns over con­flicts of in­ter­est dur­ing In­dia trip

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Marie-danielle Smith md­smith@post­media.com Twit­ter: mariedanielles

OTTAWA • The fed­eral ethics watch­dog is open­ing a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Lib­eral MP Raj Gre­wal af­ter he in­vited an em­ployer to at­tend re­cep­tions in In­dia dur­ing the prime min­is­ter’s trip in Feb­ru­ary.

“I have de­ter­mined that an in­quiry un­der the (Con­flict of In­ter­est) Code is war­ranted,” Ethics Com­mis­sioner Mario Dion said in a “con­fi­den­tial” let­ter to NDP MP Char­lie An­gus on Thurs­day, ob­tained by the Na­tional Post. “I am com­menc­ing an in­quiry and have so in­formed Mr. Gre­wal. Thank you for bring­ing this mat­ter to my at­ten­tion.”

An­gus made a for­mal com­plaint to Dion at the end of March, af­ter it came to light that Gre­wal’s of­fice had in­vited his cur­rent em­ployer, to whom he pro­vides “le­gal ser­vices,” to re­cep­tions in In­dia at­tended by Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, mem­bers of cab­i­net and se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. The busi­ness re­la­tion­ship it­self be­gan af­ter Gre­wal be­came an MP, and was dis­closed with the ethics com­mis­sioner at the time.

Gre­wal had con­firmed to the Post in March that his of­fice sent in­vi­ta­tions to em­ployer Yusuf Ye­nilmez, the CEO of a Greater Toronto Area con­struc­tion com­pany, Zgemi Inc. Ye­nilmez cor­rob­o­rated that, say­ing he had called the of­fice ahead of the trip to “make sure my name was on the list.” Both of them said that Ye­nilmez would have had ac­cess to events any­way, be­cause he was trav­el­ling with the Canada-in­dia Busi­ness Coun­cil.

The prime min­is­ter’s of­fice, which at the time was still deal­ing with the fall-out of the pres­ence of at­tempted mur­derer Jas­pal At­wal at one of the same re­cep­tions, re­fused to com­ment on the record. The PMO had been as­sert­ing that At­wal got in­vited through Lib­eral MP Ran­deep Sarai, which raised ques­tions about how much the PM’S own staff were vet­ting party guests.

Sarai and Gre­wal de­scribed the in­vi­ta­tions in a sim­i­lar way, say­ing they col­lected the names of any­one in their rid­ing who was in­ter­ested in at­tend­ing the events, then gave lists to the Cana­dian High Com­mis­sion in In­dia.

That Gre­wal did not re­cuse him­self from as­sist­ing a cur­rent em­ployer with the in­vi­ta­tion process raised con­cerns for op­po­si­tion par­ties. An­gus’s for­mal com­plaint in March said this ap­peared to be a “very egre­gious abuse” of con­flict-of-in­ter­est rules. The Con­ser­va­tives also com­plained to Dion, with MP Stephanie Kusie ini­ti­at­ing a sim­i­lar process a day later.

Dion’s re­sponse to An­gus Thurs­day said his de­ci­sion to for­mally in­ves­ti­gate came af­ter a care­ful review of “writ­ten rep­re­sen­ta­tions” from Gre­wal as well as “pub­lic doc­u­ments.”

“As I have said be­fore, I cleared this busi­ness re­la­tion­ship in ad­vance with the Con­flict of In­ter­est and Ethics Com­mis­sioner, have fol­lowed the com­mis­sioner’s ad­vice, and will con­tinue to do so,” Gre­wal said in a state­ment to the Post Thurs­day.

“I un­der­stand that the Com­mis­sioner would like more in­for­ma­tion and as I have done in the past, I will be co­op­er­at­ing fully with the Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice.”

Gre­wal is not the first Lib­eral MP to be in­ves­ti­gated dur­ing Trudeau’s ten­ure — an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau is on­go­ing and Trudeau him­self was found guilty of break­ing ethics law by out­go­ing com­mis­sioner Mary Daw­son last De­cem­ber, be­fore Dion took over the fol­low­ing month.

“What con­cerns me is that we have a gov­ern­ment that came in and made very strong prom­ises about ac­count­abil­ity and set­ting the bar higher, and then im­me­di­ately started to act as though rules be­longed to other peo­ple but not Lib­er­als,” An­gus said in an in­ter­view.

“This is go­ing to be one of the first tests for the new com­mis­sioner. ... I’m hop­ing we’ll get a rul­ing that may give other gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, gov­ern­ment MPS, pause to con­sider that they have an obli­ga­tion to serve the pub­lic in­ter­est. That’s their job. That they’re there, elected by cit­i­zens, to serve the pub­lic — not to serve their friends or to serve their busi­ness in­ter­ests.”

The Con­flict of In­ter­est Code pro­hibits Dion from speak­ing pub­licly about in­ves­ti­ga­tions — they are man­dated to oc­cur in con­fi­dence — but a spokes­woman for the of­fice, Mar­got Booth, con­firmed that the in­quiry has been launched. At the con­clu­sion of an in­quiry, the com­mis­sioner will is­sue a re­port, which could in­clude recommendations for sanc­tions against the MP if he is found to have bro­ken the rules. The com­mis­sioner has no pow­ers to en­force pun­ish­ment.

FACE­BOOK

Raj Gre­wal, right, is seen with Yusuf Ye­nilmez, CEO of Zgemi Inc., for whom Gre­wal helped se­cure an in­vi­ta­tion to at­tend events in In­dia, dur­ing the prime min­is­ter’s trip to In­dia in Feb­ru­ary.

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