The allegations against MP Helena Guergis are nothing more than "ridiculous boasts" made by a businessman facing fraud charges, the lawyer representing the former Conservative cabinet minister said Thursday.
Lawyer Howard Rubel said he and Guergis have finally learned what allegations led Prime Minister Stephen Harper to kick her out of the Conservative caucus last week and refer the matter to the RCMP.
Rubel did not disclose the allegations. But media reports named Derrick Snowdy as the private investigator who told Conservative Party officials that a probe into Toronto businessman Nazim Gillani uncovered allegations of cocaine use and stock fraud involving Guergis and her husband, ex-Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer.
A Toronto Star report says Gillani claimed to Snowdy that three offshore companies in Belize had been "reserved" to hold cash for Guergis and Jaffer.
The Star also reported Snowdy as saying he told a Conservative Party lawyer that Gillani boasted he had cellphone pictures of Jaffer and Guergis "partying" with high-class escorts when cocaine was being snorted.
In an email to CBC News and other media organizations Thursday, Rubel wrote that the source of the allegations is "a report from a private investigator who, apparently while presenting himself as another potential victim of a man currently facing fraud charges, was told these ridiculous 'boasts' in an attempt to convince the investigator to do business with him."
"We believe these circumstances speak for themselves," Rubel wrote.
Guergis "vigorously denies all of this man's bizarre claims, and looks forward to helping the RCMP demonstrate that they are completely false," her lawyer added.
Neither the Prime Minister's Office nor any member of the Conservative government has released details about the allegations that led to Guergis's resignation from cabinet and expulsion from the Tory caucus late last week, except for the fact they came from a "third party."
PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas said Harper immediately turned over the "serious and credible allegations" against Guergis to the RCMP and the ethics commissioner once he learned of them. He also said Guergis was told of the allegations against her last Friday.
MPs question Guergis's Central America trip
The Liberals have accused Harper of ignoring allegations that Jaffer used Guergis's parliamentary offices for lobbying purposes, while also questioning what contact he had with his former Conservative colleagues in Harper's cabinet over a billion-dollar federal Green Infrastructure Fund. The government has vehemently denied Jaffer had any influence on any federal funding decisions or the prime minister's inner circle.
During Thursday's question period, opposition MPs grilled the government on the allegations, asking the Conservatives to confirm whether Jaffer accompanied Guergis on a July 2008 ministerial trip to Belize and Guatemala when she was parliamentary secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The government of Canada's website for its embassy in Guatemala displays photographs of Guergis and Jaffer together touring a school and meeting with officials in the region.
Responding for the government, Transport Minister John Baird defended Harper's handling of the affair as "beyond reproach," and called on MPs to refer any specific allegations to the independent lobbying and ethics commissioners.
"The prime minister did the right thing," Baird said.
The House government operations and estimates committee decided on Wednesday to launch its own investigation into Jaffer's dealings and has requested he and Guergis testify.
The committee also sent notices to Gillani, Jaffer's business partner Patrick Glemaud, former CFL player and Gillani business partner Mike Mihelic, as well as Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt.
Gillani's spokesman, Brian Kilgore, told CBC News the businessman has accepted the invitation to testify in Ottawa on April 28, but would not be commenting for now. Gillani also has a court appearance scheduled for April 21 in Newmarket, Ont., on a fraud charge.
While some media reports suggested Snowdy first tried to offer his information to the Liberals, a spokesman for the party told CBC News a receptionist took a call from someone who said he was private investigator last week, but the call was never returned.
"We don’t deal with private investigators," the spokesman said.
When reached by CBC News in Ottawa, Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton would not confirm or deny media reports citing him as the person who was contacted by Snowdy, or whether he passed the information on to the PMO.
Guergis probe not requested: ethics chief
Earlier Thursday, ethics commissioner Mary Dawson said she hasn't received a request to investigate Guergis, despite the Prime Minister's Office saying it sent Dawson information about "serious and credible allegations."
Dawson told CBC Radio's The Current host Anna Maria Tremonti that she has not received an official request from Harper to investigate anything relating to Guergis, who remains the MP for the Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey.
"I've had one referral from the PM, but it wasn't an official request," Dawson said, adding she is monitoring the situation by "watching news reports."
Dawson, who previously announced earlier this week she "was not in a position" to investigate Guergis, also said she has the power to initiate an investigation into the MP if she feels she has reasonable grounds.
"But I have very little information at this time," she said.
In an email Thursday morning to CBC News, the PMO's Soudas acknowledged Harper did not request or direct any specific action and did not provide "specific details" of the allegations to Dawson or the Mounties, but told them the source of the allegations.
"The referrals to the commissioner and RCMP made clear that the information was second-hand and identified the source of the information for such followup as these authorities felt appropriate," he wrote.
"These authorities are independent and will make their own determinations."
In a subsequent email, Soudas wrote that the commissioner's office "was briefed on all available details."