OTTAWA — Former Liberal MP Raj Grewal was charged Friday with fraud and breach of trust over millions of dollars in loans the RCMP allege he used his political position to obtain and hid from the ethics commissioner.
The RCMP further allege that Grewal used his taxpayer-funded constituency office budget for his own personal benefit.
"Mr. Grewal adamantly denies these allegations — as he has done steadfastly since 2018," said his lawyer, Nader Hasan, by email. "He looks forward to having his day in court and clearing his name."
The charges cap off an investigation that began back in 2017, nearly two years into Grewal's first term as a member of Parliament.
He left the Liberal caucus in 2018 for what he said were personal and health reasons. He stayed on as an Independent MP but didn't seek re-election last year.
At the time, the Prime Minister's Office said Grewal was seeking treatment for a gambling addiction, and Grewal later posted a video detailing his problems.
He said he began frequenting the Casino du Lac Leamy in Gatineau, Que., in early 2016, racking up debt in the millions of dollars playing high-stakes blackjack. He started to borrow money from family and friends to continue to gamble.
"On an average sitting, I would spend between 15 to 30 minutes at a table, and I either won a lot of money, which made me continue to chase wins, or I lost a significant amount of money, which threw me into complete despair," he said.
"I want to make it clear that every single personal loan made to me was by cheque. Everybody has been paid back, and every loan and repayment is transparent and traceable."
The RCMP said their investigation was launched based on information forwarded in 2017 by the agency that tracks suspicious financial transactions in Canada.
At the time of his resignation from the Liberal caucus, Grewal was also caught up in an ethics probe into whether he may have been in a conflict of interest when he invited a construction executive — who was paying Grewal for legal services at the time — to official events on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trip to India that year.
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus, who had been one of the MPs who complained about that incident, said Friday that in his view, Grewal's troubles began there and just escalated. They fit a pattern within the Liberal government, Angus alleged, of MPs thinking the law doesn't apply to them.
"Today's charges should remind Trudeau that even though he does not like these rules, that doesn't put him or other Liberals above the law."
Grewal is facing four counts of breach of trust and one of fraud. He is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 6.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2020.