Two businessmen who heard Rahim Jaffer speak last August at a Toronto-area restaurant believed the former MP would be their connection to millions of dollars in government grants.
The men, who spoke to the CBC on condition of anonymity, said they were lured to the Aug. 25 meeting by an email that boasted: "Rahim Jaffer, who is the Canadian government money access point for us, will be in attendance."
"We left with the impression Jaffer was the source of funding," said the president of one company who pitched to Jaffer and his business colleague Nazim Gillani, the author of the email and the organizer of the meeting.
The vice-president of another firm at the meeting in the La Castile restaurant in Mississauga, Ont., said Jaffer spoke about his background as an MP and the federal government's $1-billion green infrastructure fund, saying "this fund is fully available to him" at extremely low interest rates.
The two businessmen say they were presented with Jaffer's business card, which indicated he was an MP, and his address was Centre Block at the House of Commons. Jaffer had lost his seat a year earlier.
Doors in Ottawa "were wide open to him," was Jaffer's message, the businessman asserted.
Jaffer also appeared to be part of the group pitching companies Green Rite and Wright Tech, a system of turning food waste into energy that was also being promoted by its founder, Jim Wright, to potential investors at the dinner meeting.
Jaffer's wife, MP Helena Guergis, later wrote a letter to her cousin, the county warden in her Ontario riding, advocating for the project. She has since denied that her husband had any financial interest in the companies.
Guergis is a former Conservative cabinet minister and caucus member who is now an Independent.
A little over two weeks after the dinner at La Castile, Jaffer attended a meeting at the Toronto restaurant Harbour 60. Jaffer continued to portray himself as a powerbroker, said the vice-president.
'Joining our team'
The next morning, Gillani, who organized the two meetings, said in another group email: "As most of you may have heard, we had a rather earth-moving experience last night at dinner with Rahim Jaffer and Dr. Chen. Mr. Jaffer has opened up the Prime Minister's office to us and as a result of that dinner he today advised me that he is just as excited as we are and joining our team seems to be the next logical step."
Chen is an associate of Gillani.
Brian Kilgore, a spokesman for Gillani, who is facing fraud charges in an unrelated matter, has since told the CBC his client was overly enthusiastic in that email.
But Kilgore said Gillani "certainly believed that Jaffer's and Glemaud's expertise lay in getting information about businesses in front of appropriate government officials, elected and public service" — based on the kinds of services that were listed on Jaffer's own website at the time.
The second email was written several hours after Jaffer was pulled over for speeding and charged with drunk driving and possession of cocaine. Several months later, Jaffer pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of careless driving and was fined $500.
In Ottawa on Wednesday, Jaffer appeared before a parliamentary committee and denied ever taking illegal substances or lobbying the federal government for access to a green infrastructure fund.
Jaffer and his business partner, Patrick Glémaud, were questioned by MPs for more than two hours over allegations the ex-MP conducted unregistered lobbying and improperly used his wife's parliamentary office.
Jaffer testified that he never saw the emails from Gillani and therefore didn't refute the contents, even though he was copied on the message.
Jaffer also denied handing out his MP business cards as a private citizen.
"I told you, I never did those things," Jaffer said in response to questioning from NDP MP Pat Martin.
He added that he and Glémaud realized "very quickly" after meeting with Gillani that there was "no synergy" between their businesses.