NDP asks ethics watchdog to look into Liberal MP's India trip guest

NDP Charlie Angus is asking the ethics commissioner to investigate Liberal MP Raj Grewal after reports he helped a business associate gain access to the prime minister and other top government officials during a trip to India last month.

Raj Grewal says he cleared his invitation to business associate with ethics commissioner in advance of trip

Liberal MP Raj Grewal rises in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday, June 3, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

NDP MP Charlie Angus is asking the ethics commissioner to investigate Liberal MP Raj Grewal following reports he helped a business associate gain access to the prime minister and other top government officials during a trip to India last month.

Grewal, MP for Brampton East, invited Yusuf Yenilmez, CEO of ZGemi Inc., to recent receptions in India with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his delegation.

Grewal has listed ZGemi, a general contractor in the Brampton area, as a source of income on his filing to the ethics commissioner.

Yenilmez told the National Post that he "went to India for business and signed up to attend the Business Networking sessions offered by the Canada India Foundation. I signed up independently as a Canadian business looking to partner with Indians business looking to expand in Canada."

The ZGemi Facebook page shows Yenilmez posed for photos with top ranking officials in the Liberal government, including Katie Telford, the prime minister's chief of staff, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Government House leader Bardish Chagger, Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Nadir Patel, Canada's high commissioner in India.

As Angus points out in his letter, sections 8 and 9 of the Conflict of Interest Code for MPs prohibit them from furthering their private interests or "improperly further(ing) another person's or entity's private interests."

Angus goes on to argue that Grewal has "failed the test of principles" by promoting his partial employer's business and organizing "high-level networking opportunities."

Grewal himself said that since Yenilmez was registered for the Canada-India Forum through the Canada India Business Council, he had access to the receptions with or without the Liberal MP's invitation.

"I cleared this business relationship in advance with the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, have followed the commissioner's advice, and will continue to do so," Grewal said in a statement.

Failed the test of principles

A spokesperson for Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion would not confirm that his office has received a request for an inquiry.

Grewal did not respond to a request for comment from CBC News.

The trip followed Grewal into question period Thursday, where Conservative House leader Candice Bergen ripped into his decision to bring Yenilmez along.

Chagger, answering on his behalf, said the ethics commissioner is well aware of Grewal's relationship with Yenilmez.

"The member has consulted the office of (the) ethics and conflict of interest commissioner on this relationship and will keep following their advice," she said.

Chagger also said it is not unusual for MPs to invite local business leaders to these sorts of functions.

"As is common practice, the member invited a diverse group of more than 30 stakeholders to participate in events around the India trip. In this case, people who were interested in attending could fill out a form online through the Canada-India Business Council, which the individual in question also did," she said.

The opposition has gone after the Liberals repeatedly over their guest list for the ill-fated India mission after news broke that convicted attempted murderer Jaspal  Atwal was invited to at least two receptions with Trudeau during the February trip. His invitation to an event at the Canadian High Commission in India was eventually rescinded.

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With files from the CBC's Catharine Tunney and John Paul Tasker


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