Gagliano denies ties to crime family

Former cabinet minister Alfonso Gagliano has denied allegations in a New York paper that he is tied to organized crime.

Former Liberal cabinet minister Alfonso Gagliano has adamantly denied allegations that he is linked to New York's Bonanno crime family. The allegations, he told CBC News, "are totally false."

"My reputation here is at stake," he said in the interview.

The allegations against Gagliano were initially printed in Thursday's edition of the New York Daily News and repeated in the House of Commons by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.

During question period, Harper asked Prime Minister Paul Martin about the allegations.

Martin said he had not seen the article and had only heard about it Thursday morning. But he reminded Harper that any such statements would be merely allegations and "that one should not repeat allegations or accept them prematurely."

The Daily News report cited secret FBI documents the newspaper had obtained, claiming Gagliano was identified in the papers as a "made" member of the Bonanno crime family.

Frank Lino, a former Mafia capo-turned-informer, identified Gagliano as a longtime soldier in the organization, the New York report said.

Gagliano says he "never met those people, so [the allegations are] totally false."

"That's false," he said. "I was never a member of the Bonanno family, or any other family, as a matter of fact. I will prove ... that the story is not true."

Gagliano has come under fire in recent months over his role in the controversial sponsorship program, which sent millions of dollars in commissions to Liberal-friendly ad firms in Quebec.

Martin removed Gagliano from his job as ambassador to Denmark soon after Auditor General Sheila Fraser released a scathing report on the program, saying "every rule in the book" had been broken in the effort to raise the federal government's profile in Quebec.