In an exclusive interview with CBC News Networks' Power & Politics, Nathan Jacobson, the Canadian businessman who pleaded guilty to money laundering in a U.S. court four years ago, says he is protecting friends in the Canadian government because he is "radioactive."
When Jacobson failed to show up for a sentencing hearing in the U.S. this summer, U.S. justice authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on July 30. Almost three months later, Toronto police arrested him last week.
Jacobson had set up an internet pharmacy called Affpower, based in Costa Rica, that sold controlled drugs online for customers without a prescription, and used his own credit-card payment company to receive the fees. His guilty plea was for laundering $46 million in payments.
Jacobson was released on bail Wednesday from the Toronto Detention Centre, where he had been held since last Thursday.
In question period Thursday, Liberal MP Judy Foote asked if the government had taken any action to find and apprehend Jacobson before his arrest.
Parliamentary secretary for justice Robert Goguen replied, "This was a matter that was acted on immediately upon the request. The Americans requested that he be arrested on Oct. 24 and the very next day, Oct. 25, he was arrested. This case is now before the courts. It would be inappropriate to interfere."
'Friends' in high places
Just hours before he was arrested last week, Jacobson told CBC News that he is now protecting what he calls his friends in government. "I myself made the decision that it's best to keep a distance, in order to protect my friends. I would for the most part consider them still my friends. But while I'm — for the lack of a better term — radioactive, better let them to continue to run government."
Jacobson hosted a number of Canadian-Israeli receptions on Parliament Hill, and said that people from the Prime Minister's Office attended, as well as Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. He said the prime minister was not present at what he described as bipartisan events to celebrate the relationship between Canada and Israel.
A photograph has circulated in the media of Jacobson standing between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Prime Minister Harper. PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall said the photo was taken at a reception on Parliament Hill attended by several hundred people, many of whom posed for photos with the two leaders.
Jacobson also said that he had introduced Kenney to top-level politicians in Israel. "Jason and I have spent a little time in Israel on several occasions when he's been there. And I've hosted dinners in Israel with senior government people. I, in fact, took Jason to meet Netanyahu his first time, meeting Netanyahu and other people within the security and political environment within Israel."
Another reason Jacobson calls himself radioactive is that he is suing Conservative MP Mark Adler, the Toronto politician who defeated Ken Dryden last election.
Jacobson met Adler in the latter's role as the owner of the Economic Club of Canada, an organization that stages non-partisan events with top-drawer speakers. Jacobson said that at first he helped Adler procure some prominent Israeli speakers for the club, and that he'd loaned Adler money for the expansion of the club into the U.S. and perhaps Israel.
The amount was $140,000 Jacobson said, though he acknowledges there was no written contract about the money.
"There are records of the money going to him, and it's written up in our books, and it's still being shown as losses in our books. You know, there is accounting of it. You know, it's not meeting at midnight with black bags with $140,000 and, you know, handing off code words 'abula, bula,' and he responds 'the sky is blue,' and I hand him over a satchel. It wasn't. And in fact two of the payments were by cheque to the Economic Club."
Adler says the money was meant to be a gift.
"It’s nice that he considers it a gift," Jacobson responded. "I’d like him to show me other people that give him gifts like that. And I’d like other people to come forward and state that I gave them gifts of $140,000. Go ask my sister. I love my sister.… I don’t give gifts like that. I’m a generous person, but nobody gives gifts like that. So it’s unfathomable that he could. I was so insulted when he came out with that response. I went to him: Mark, I loaned you the money. When are you going to start repaying it?"
Jacobson was released on a security of $600,000 which he paid himself, and he has surrendered both his Israeli and Canadian passports.