With allegations of attempted voter fraud hanging over the Surrey civic election, Global News has heard for the first time from two men who say they were pressured to participate in the alleged scheme.
Concerns were initially raised late last month by anti-crime community group “Wake Up Surrey.”
The group alleged a co-ordinated effort in the South Asian community to use absentee ballots either to vote on behalf of someone else without their knowledge, or by obtaining the absentee ballots from voters and then filling them out and forging the voter’s signature.
It also claimed alleged fraudsters were offering to pay people to vote for a particular candidate.
On Saturday, Global News heard from two men who work in the construction trades industry, both of whom had immigrated to Canada from India within the last two decades.
Global News has agreed not to name the men, who said they feared professional reprisals for speaking out.
The first man told Global News he was approached by a man who wanted him to fill out a phony mail-in ballot in support of mayoral candidate Tom Gill two weeks ago.
He said he was told money that was owed to him for a work project would be in jeopardy if he didn’t participate.
READ MORE: Surrey RCMP sets up voter fraud tip line
The second man said he was asked for names and addresses of other members of the South Asian community who don’t typically vote. He said he was told that if he cooperated and helped elect Gill, his building projects could get favourable treatment through city hall.
Both men said they moved to Canada, in part, to get away from political racketeering and were upset at feeling pressured.
Neither man said they had gone directly to police with their claims.
“Wake up Surrey” says it acted as an intermediary because the individuals are afraid to go to the police directly, for cultural reasons.
Tom Gill said he knows nothing of the alleged scheme, and rejected allegations they had anything to do with his campaign.
“Without hesitation, I tell you these accusations are false, absolutely false,” Gill told Global News.
Gill called the allegations part of a smear campaign aimed at blocking his mayoral bid. He said while he didn’t want to name names, he believes he knows who is behind it.
“There’s no question in my mind there’s a political motivation behind what’s been happening over the last several months,” Gill said.
The Surrey RCMP is investigating allegations of attempted voter fraud and set up an election fraud tip line last Wednesday.
Last week, Surrey RCMP said no individuals had come forward who had personally been targeted in the scheme, and that officers had only received third-party allegations of wrongdoing.
Global News has requested an update on the investigation from Surrey RCMP, including whether anyone has now come forward.
Surrey’s chief election officer Anthony Capuccinello Iraci said no absentee ballots had been disbursed as of last week. He said the city was changing its policy so that voters had to pick the ballots up in person and provide a signature and ID.
On Saturday, Capuccinello Iraci said the matter is now in the hands of the RCMP and that he could not comment further.