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May 22, 2012

Fantino Hanky-Panky?

Reuel S. Amdur

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Ma Bell, controlling much of Ottawa's English-language broadcast universe, got rid of Michael Harris, its one non-ultra-right talk show host, but fortunately he has managed to resurface. He has had recent posts on iPolitics, taking aim at Harperites in general and Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino in particular.

Harris raises questions about two issues relating to possible financial irregularities.  One issue is the allegation that, during his successful by-election campaign, Fantino had two campaign bank accounts, while the Election Act says that there must be but one.  The allegation came from concerned former directors of the Vaughan Conservative Electoral District Association, Tracey Kent and Richard Lorello.

Kent told Harris, regarding Fantino’s Communications Director Chris McClusky’s denial of a second account, “Mr. McClusky did not witness Mr. Fantino’s campaign Fund Raising Chair walk into the Board meeting of the Vaughan Conservative EDA with a bank account that was NOT under the control of the campaign Chief Financial Agent.  Nor was it under the care/control of the Vaughan Conservative EDA.”

Harris strengthens the case by citing an e-mail from Sam Ciccolini, Financial Co-chair of the campaign.  Ciccolini sent the e-mail to Richard Lorello, a former Tory candidate in the riding and another director of the EDA who took issue with the second bank account.  Said Ciccolini, “it would be best to have the TD bank account as they have been good to us and there were some transactions–checks that have yet to clear and at some point we would close it.” 

Kent felt the cool breath of prison on her neck as well as the threat of fines, for violation of the Election Act, and so she wrote to Elections Canada about the matter, back in January 2011.  It would be interesting to know how Elections Canada is handling this matter. 

Then we come to the second issue.  Lorello was the recipient of documents sent anonymously by e-mail, purporting to be evidence of a private Fantino bank account in the Cayman Islands.  Cabinet member Fantino, required to list all assets, did not list a Cayman bank account. 

Lorello forwarded the information to Revenue Canada and the Ethics Commissioner, to establish the authenticity of the documents.  However, unnamed experts cited by Postmedia columnist Stephen Maher, “a New York-based financial service expert,” and “a Canadian banker,” found a number of flaws in the documents, raising serious question as to their authenticity. Derek Snowdy, a private eye who was involved with the uncovering facts in the Rahim Jaffer-Helena Guergis affair, saw the documents as fake.  He told Maher that they appeared to be “a creative photo shop representation of what it would look like to an untrained eye.”

Harris seems to have an interesting case regarding the two bank accounts during the campaign.  The Cayman Islands saga is another story, but if it is a scam it would be interesting to know who is perpetrating it and why.

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