Raj Gre­wal has to turn over all his cards

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - EDITORIAL -

In the week since Raj Gre­wal re­leased a video in which he con­fessed to hav­ing a gam­bling habit that he fed with mil­lions of bor­rowed dol­lars, the pub­lic has learned next to noth­ing about what re­ally hap­pened, and even less about how the MP for the Toronto-area rid­ing of Bramp­ton East was able to re­solve the is­sue so quickly, at least in his own mind.

The only known de­vel­op­ments have been that Mr. Gre­wal has left the Liberal cau­cus, but has re­tracted his Nov. 22 de­ci­sion to re­sign from Par­lia­ment. In­stead, as he said in a Nov. 30 video, he now in­tends to stay in his seat un­til at least the new year, while un­der­go­ing treat­ment for his ad­dic­tion. His problems, he said, are all be­hind him.

The pub­lic needs to hear a lot more de­tail about this. There are gam­bling ad­dic­tions, and then there are gam­bling ad­dic­tions. The con­di­tion is real, but Mr. Gre­wal is not just any­one. He’s an elected pub­lic of­fi­cial who played high-stakes black­jack in a casino in Gatineau, Que., dur­ing Par­lia­men­tary ses­sions and lost mil­lions of dol­lars do­ing so.

His abil­ity to keep re­turn­ing to the ta­ble with large sums of money caught the at­ten­tion of FINTRAC, the Fi­nance Depart­ment agency that col­lects and an­a­lyzes fi­nan­cial in­tel­li­gence in an ef­fort to pre­vent money laun­der­ing. The RCMP sub­se­quently started in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr. Gre­wal to find out where he got the funds.

As they should have. An MP who ap­pears to have ac­cess to a bot­tom­less stake ought to be in­ves­ti­gated – not only for the pro­tec­tion of the pub­lic and its trust in elected of­fi­cials, but pos­si­bly also to pro­tect Mr. Gre­wal.

That’s not far-fetched. The Cana­dian Press re­ported on Nov. 28 that Mr. Gre­wal’s gam­bling debts had come to the at­ten­tion of the On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice af­ter they heard some “very shady guys” dis­cussing the mat­ter on a wire­tap.

“There are wire­taps up on an or­ga­nized-crime [and] ter­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tion. And they have peo­ple talk­ing about his gam­bling debts on the wire,” a source told CP.

That al­le­ga­tion, which con­tains no sug­ges­tion that Mr. Gre­wal was in­volved in il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity, has fu­elled Op­po­si­tion de­mands for his res­ig­na­tion, and for an ex­pla­na­tion from the Prime Minister’s Of­fice of how and when it found out about the MP’s problems.

The PMO says it only learned over the week­end of Nov. 17 that the po­lice were ask­ing ques­tions about Mr. Gre­wal. Mr. Gre­wal ap­par­ently al­ready knew of the po­lice in­ter­est when he met with PMO of­fi­cials on Nov. 19. He an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion three days later.

The Op­po­si­tion is right to ques­tion the PMO’s chronol­ogy, partly be­cause the PMO has ad­mit­ted that the RCMP ap­proached it about Mr. Gre­wal in late win­ter or early spring of this year, but says it was about a sep­a­rate mat­ter.

Those ques­tions fo­cused on Mr. Gre­wal’s role in bring­ing the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bramp­ton, Ont., con­struc­tion firm Zgemi Inc. to an event fea­tur­ing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in In­dia in Fe­bru­ary. Mr. Gre­wal was moon­light­ing as a paid em­ployee of Zgemi at the time. That episode is the sub­ject of a com­plaint to the fed­eral ethics com­mis­sioner.

It has not been dis­closed how much Zgemi paid him, or for what.

The tim­ing of all of this is im­por­tant. Mr. Gre­wal sat on the stand­ing fi­nance com­mit­tee of the House of Com­mons un­til ear­lier this year, and twice he asked pointed ques­tions about the method­ol­ogy of FINTRAC and the po­lice when they in­ves­ti­gate money laun­der­ing. The Lib­er­als re­moved Mr. Gre­wal from the fi­nance com­mit­tee on Sept. 19, in what they say was a rou­tine re­as­sign­ment.

Mr. Gre­wal in­sists he is guilty of noth­ing more than bad judg­ment. In his con­fes­sional video, he says all the money he bor­rowed came from friends and fam­ily, in the form of che­ques only, and that it had all been paid back.

Per­haps that’s true. Mr. Gre­wal is 33 and a po­lit­i­cal rookie; it may well be that his re­ally is a tale of poor judg­ment and in­ex­pe­ri­ence, with no eth­i­cal or le­gal wrong­do­ing.

But it is on him and the Liberal gov­ern­ment to prove that there is noth­ing to see here. Mr. Gre­wal says “ev­ery loan and re­pay­ment is trans­par­ent and re­trace­able.”

He must let the ethics com­mis­sioner de­cide that by co­op­er­at­ing fully with an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing turn­ing over all of his fi­nan­cial records.

At this point, there are far too many trou­bling ques­tions to let Mr. Gre­wal, or the gov­ern­ment, put this to rest.

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