Politics

RCMP called to probe tale of two Liberal MPs, a suburban overpass, trip to India and multimillion dollar land deal

The Toronto-area city of Brampton has asked the RCMP to look at
a multimillion-dollar land deal after confidential information
on the transaction was passed to local Liberal MPs Navdeep
Bains and Raj Grewal, sources confirmed Friday.

City council referred the matter to the Mounties at a special
meeting Tuesday, sources confirmed to the National Post.

The information received by Bains – the economic development
minister – and Grewal, who recently resigned his seat because
of a gambling addiction and related debts, included the price
the city had offered the Ontario government for the piece of
land, about $3.3 million.

After talks between the municipality and province broke down, a
local company called Goreway Heaven Inc. bought the property
for a similar amount and later sold it to the city for $4.4
million, according to two sources.

Goreway Heaven appears to have Liberal ties, with at least one
of its directors taking part in the prime minister’s ill-fated
trip to India earlier this year. About half of the directors
have made two or more donations each to the federal Liberal
party.

He’s MP in that area. That’s it

The land was sold to the city in January of this year. A month
later, Goreway Heaven director Baghwan “Gary” Grewal – no
relation to the MP but a former Liberal riding association
president in Mississauga-Streetsville – took part in Trudeau’s
visit to India, his invitation-only Facebook page indicates.

“An honour to be part of PM Trudeau’s delegation,” he says in
one post.

Grewal’s page includes photographs in which he poses with Raj
Grewal, Bains, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and various other
Liberal MPs who took part in the visit.

Baghwan Grewal could not be reached for comment.

Raj Grewal said through a spokesman that he received a city
report on the land deal unsolicited and then did nothing with
it.

Suggesting he leaked the price information to Goreway Heaven
would be “categorically false,” said Grewal representative Joel
Etienne.

Bains spokeswoman Dani Keenan said the minister never
shared with anyone or benefited in any way from confidential
information related to the Goreway proejct.

“Any insinuation or allegation of wrongdoing on his part are
categorically false and will be responded to by his lawyer,”
said Keenan.

Brampton
MPs Navdeep Bains and Sonia Sidhu at a reception in India with
Bhagwan Grewal, right, whose company Goreway Heaven was involved
in a land deal that sources say the city of Brampton has referred
to the RCMP for investigation.
Facebook

Two Goreway directors said the company was one of 24 bidders on
the land and bought it to develop themselves, partly by
building a funeral home. When they learned the site was
“landlocked” and they couldn’t get a permit for their project,
they had no choice but to sell, the businessmen said.

The firm had no advance knowledge of what the city had already
offered for it, added directors Jaswinder Bhatti and Kulwant
Riarh, and did not discuss the deal with either MP. Bhatti said
he deals occasionally with Grewal but only as his local member.

“We buy like 20 properties in a year. We never discussed this,
and he’s never acted on any property as a lawyer or
anything,” the director said.  “He’s MP in that area.
That’s it. Nothing else.”

The Pointer news web site, which broke the story Thursday,
suggested that Hasneet Punia, chief of staff to outgoing
Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey had “leaked” the price figure to
Bains and Grewal.

But Marcel Wieder of Aurora Strategy Group, who is representing
the official, said Punia was just doing his job. He simply gave
the two MPs a staff report on the project that included the
price, part of a routine effort to convince the federal
government to help fund the city’s planned project.

“The information on how much the city had agreed to pay the
province for the Goreway Drive land was part of the
confidential report passed on to the two MPs’ offices, and Mr.
Punia has no idea how that information was used by others, if
at all,” said Wieder.

Chantal Gagnon, a Trudeau press secretary, said neither Bhagwan
Grewal nor any other business person on the trip was part of
the prime minister’s official delegation, but were invited by
individual MPs to specific events. Raj Grewal said he did not
ask along any of the Goreway Heaven directors.

The contentious land deal comes amid growing controversy around
Grewal, who resigned a little over a week ago. After he first
cited “personal and medical” reasons, Trudeau’s office, and
later Grewal himself, revealed that he had a gambling problem
and large debts stemming from that.

Media reports indicate the RCMP has been investigating
financial activities around the millions of dollars the MP bet
at casinos and elsewhere, while a Conservative senator says he
learned 18 months ago that Grewal was under investigation
because of his prodigious gambling.

The city of Brampton had for 20 years wanted to clear up a
traffic bottle-neck near its border with Mississauga by
building an overpass across railway tracks.

It was in negotiations to buy land it needed for the project
from the province but broke off talks because Ontario asked for
more than the $3.3 million Brampton offered, a source said.

Then in February of 2017, Goreway bought the parcel instead,
with Bhatti and Riarh estimating they paid in the $3.3-$3.5
million range. Riarh said he loaned the company $2 million for
the purchase, and that they planned to build a trucking
terminal or large warehouse and a funeral home.

Recently
sold land in Brampton, Ont., confidential information on which
was apparently given to Liberal MP Raj Grewal by an aide to the
city’s mayor.
J.P. Moczulski for Postmedia News

This January, Goreway sold it to the city for about a million
dollars more than it had paid as, a source said, Brampton now
realized it had no choice but to obtain the property.

Bhatti said the $4.4 million was a reasonable price, given all
the expenses Goreway Heaven faced in the interim and the fact
it couldn’t now use the parcel.

“You have to pay the mortgage, you have to pay the land
transfer taxes. … Then you have to hire all the people to
develop that land,” he said. “We developed all the
development plans, submitted to the city, along with their
fees. If you add up, how much that all costs?”

Several of Goreway’s directors seem to be supporters of the
Liberal party.

According to Elections Canada, a Bhagwan Grewal has contributed
about $6,000 to the federal party since 2009.

Names in the Elections Canada database that match other
directors include Kiran Malhotra, donating a total of about
$1,000 to the Liberals, Gurmeet Sidhu about $3,000, Jaswinder
Bhatti, about $3,000 (plus a similar amount to the NDP) and
Upinder Dhanoa, contributing $616 in 2015 to the Liberals (and
$450 to the Conservatives in 2009).

• Email: tblackwell@postmedia.com
| Twitter: tomblackwellNP

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