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.
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 spokesman 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.
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.
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).
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