The private investigator whose claims led to Helena Guergis's resignation from cabinet says he never expected the "political snowball" that ensued and was prompted to act over concerns about "optics."
In his first broadcast interview, Derrick Snowdy told CBC's Dave Seglins in the Bahamas that the media storm caused by his remarks on the alleged involvement of Guergis and her husband, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, in the shady world of a businessman charged with fraud have taken the focus off the key issue.
"This isn't about Rahim Jaffer. This isn't about Helena Guergis. This is about a criminal investigation into the conduct of Nazim Gillani, that for whatever reason, has turned into a political snowball, over one man's criminal empire," the Toronto-area private investigator said.
'Every single claim [Snowdy] has made is false.' —Nazim Gillani
Snowdy said he was investigating Gillani, a Toronto business promoter, when allegations arose of cocaine use and offshore tax evasion involving Jaffer and Guergis, who was expelled from Tory caucus just over a week ago.
He said the probe into Gillani's business practices was requested by Snowdy's long-term friend, Dennis Garces, and a group of angry investors who claimed they were ripped off by Gillani.
As part of his investigation into Gillani, Snowdy maintained he discovered the businessman had ties to a U.S. company with an "exceptionally seedy past" and discovered a "swath of victims" defrauded of possibly millions of dollars in a multi-level, "carefully orchestrated criminal enterprise."
Claims are false: Gillani
Gillani vehemently disagrees.
"Every single claim he has made is false — and there is no corroboration because none of it is true," Gillani said in a statement to CBC in response to Snowdy's allegations.
Snowdy made the comments in a wide-ranging interview in Nassau, the Bahamian capital.
He revealed details of what triggered his disclosure to the Conservative Party, and responded to questions over his own $13-million bankruptcy claim that prompted questions about his credibility and the client behind his probe into Gillani's affairs.
Snowdy stressed that he never sought to air any allegations in the media.
His disclosure about the former power couple's alleged ties to Gillani came after the Toronto Star's Kevin Donovan approached him about a month ago with questions about the hours preceding Jaffer's arrest on impaired driving and cocaine possession charges last Sept. 11. Those charges were dropped and Jaffer later pleaded guilty to a careless driving charge, incurring a $500 fine.
When the Star published an article on April 8 — which detailed Jaffer's alleged connections with Gillani, including boasts by Gillani that he would open the Prime Minister's office to his company — Snowdy says his client, Garces, suggested they pass along the information to the Conservative Party.
Alerted Tories, Liberals
Snowdy, a card-carrying Conservative Party member, said he was concerned about the "optics" of Guergis and Jaffer associating with Gillani. Gillani faces charges of fraud in an unrelated matter.
"That social relationship [with Guergis and Jaffer] may have provided an opportunity for him to create or to obtain information or evidence that could be used to manipulate business activities or political activities to his advantage," said Snowdy.
Snowdy said Gillani made references to Jaffer in an attempt to establish his own credibility, indicating Jaffer was a business partner in a number of his ventures.
The private investigator said he first alerted his member of Parliament, Conservative Lisa Raitt, who represents the Halton riding, and also contacted the party's riding executive.
Garces, according to Snowdy, then suggested the private investigator offer the information to the Liberal party, in the interest of fairness.
Snowdy said he tried to reach Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's chief of staff Peter Donolo and another employee, but an office assistant said they were unavailable and took Snowdy's offer of information to pass along. Then the private investigator said he spoke with Conservative party lawyer Arthur Hamilton for an hour late Thursday and met him the next day in his Toronto office.
Conversation with ethics office
'I said to him I had made no allegations against the member. He asked if I had spoken with the prime minister's chief of staff. I said no.' —Derrick Snowdy
He said they discussed allegations against Gillani, an occasion when Jaffer and Guergis apparently dined with Gillani, and a gesture Gillani apparently made, holding up his cellphone, implying he had potentially incriminating photographic evidence of the former power couple.
At 4 p.m. ET that Friday, April 9, Snowdy said he returned a phone call from the ethics commissioner's office. In a brief conversation, the employee quoted from a letter from the prime minister's chief of staff saying Snowdy was making allegations against a member of the house.
"I said to him I had made no allegations against the member. He asked if I had spoken with the prime minister's chief of staff. I said no. Did I make any allegations against the member? I said no.
"And he then stated to me, 'Well, it doesn't seem to me that we have a complaint here. Thank you very much.' Hung up the phone," said Snowdy.
Dismisses $13M bankruptcy filing
Snowdy said he has alerted the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and the Prime Minister's Office to his whereabouts in Nassau so they can contact him for any additional information.
Questions swirled about Snowdy's credibility after it was revealed earlier in the week that the private investigator had filed for bankruptcy last August, citing more than $13 million in total liabilities.
In his interview with the CBC, Snowdy dismissed the bankruptcy filing, saying it's not "real money" and was the result of an $11.9-million counterclaim to a lawsuit he filed against an employee terminated for gross misconduct. Additional liabilities included a penalty charge by the Canada Revenue Agency, which was later resolved.
He denied receiving any compensation from the Liberals or Conservatives for disclosing information. He also stated he was never an investor in Gillani's businesses, and was only posing as one for the purposes of his investigation.