Monday, July 11, 2005

Grewal's election expenses under scrutiny

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the pool…, the CBC is reporting here that there are problems with Grewal's elections expenses. Several contributors claim to have written cheques to Grewal for his election campaign, but never received receipts.
Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal is at the centre of another political storm. CBC News has learned that he is being investigated by the RCMP over irregularities in his 2004 election expenses.

Grewal is already under police investigation after tape-recording his conversations with Liberals about crossing the floor. Now the Mounties are also investigating allegations from some of Grewal's contributors who say they don't know where their money went.

Barj Dhahan, a Vancouver businessman, donated to Grewal's campaign expecting to get a tax receipt, but he never did. "I ended up saying that, you know, I think there's something fishy here." Dhahan gave Grewal a cheque for $600 for his 2004 re-election campaign. He says Grewal asked him to make it out to him personally. Grewal deposited the cheque in January 2004, but not to his riding association or his party. "All I know is the back of the cheque is endorsed by Mr. Grewal," Dhahan said. "He is the best person to know where this money went."

Sarup Mann is another campaign contributor who never got a receipt. "If the [Conservative] party doesn't have the money, I don't know where that went. I don't have a tax receipt," he said. Mann also gave $600 for Grewal's campaign. He says Grewal asked for the cheque to be made out to himself. Grewal deposited it. The party didn't get it. "I've spoken to him a few times asking him for a tax receipt. He tells me that he would get back to me and that I will get my receipt, but a year and a half later I still don't have one. So that's a long time."

The Elections Act has strict rules about campaign donations. Every donor has to get a receipt. The act also makes it illegal for campaign contributions to be deposited anywhere but in the campaign's account or the riding association's account. The act also says only the official agent can handle contributions and that all of them must be reported to Elections Canada.

In Grewal's campaign CBC News found five cases where these things don't seem to have happened. Neither Mann nor Dhahan appears on the Elections Canada report listing Grewal's contributors. Mann also gave $1,800 to the campaign of Nina Grewal – Gurmant Grewal's wife, who's also an MP, but he never got a receipt for that, either.

Another cheque for $1,000 is from plumbing contractor Jagdeep Brar, who says it was a campaign donation but he never got a receipt. On the back, it seems to have been cashed, but it was not deposited to Grewal's campaign account as required by law.

Grewal said in a telephone interview that he turned over all contributions to his riding association, but his own official agent John Keith contradicted that, saying he never received the cheques in question, which is why he never reported them to Elections Canada or issued receipts. The president of Grewal's Newton-North Delta riding association, Jim Holt, backed out of an interview at the last minute, saying his investigation is incomplete.

The Conservative party says two of the cheques went to a supplier for campaign expenses, although that's not the procedure required by the Elections Act.

As for the $1,000 cheque that was cashed, the party says it doesn't know who cashed it but it was not Grewal.

"This is really strange and unusual. We have one of our national parties and one of its candidates is accepting political contributions and there's no receipts. So it raises a lot of questions," said Dhahan.

Holt says the charges are part of a "political assassination campaign" by the Liberals against Grewal.

It's true that some of those complaining gave money to the Liberals as well as to the Conservatives, but neither Grewal nor any other Conservative is ready to give a full accounting of where the money went, or why the donations were not reported as required.