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Trudeau dodges questions on meetings with alleged illegal casino operator

Click to play video 'Trudeau dodges questions on meeting alleged illegal casino operator' Trudeau dodges questions on meeting alleged illegal casino operator
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during Wednesday’s Question Period dodged questions about a report he has met twice with a man recently charged with running an illegal high-end Toronto casino ring.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday dodged questions stemming from a report he has twice met with a Chinese businessman recently charged with running an illegal high-end Toronto gambling ring.

York Regional Police last week busted what they allege was a high-end, illegal gambling operation run out of a Markham, Ont., mansion involving armed guards and human trafficking.

READ MORE: Dozens charged, millions in property and cash seized in alleged illegal casino bust: York police

Among those charged is a 52-year-old man named Wei Wei.

The National Post on Wednesday reported that individual has moved in high-level political circles advocating for Chinese interests, and met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on two occasions in 2016.

A York Regional Police spokesperson confirmed to Global News that the individual listed on the sprawling charge sheet for Project End Game is the same Wei Wei named in the caption of a photo on the China Cultural Industry Association website showing several members meeting with Trudeau in 2016.

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He is described in that caption as the co-chair of the Canada China Chamber of Commerce Association.

Wei Wei, left, pictured in a 2016 photo from the China Cultural Industry Association
Wei Wei, left, pictured in a 2016 photo from the China Cultural Industry Association. China Cultural Industry Association

Trudeau was pressed by Conservatives about the two meetings, one of which the National Post reported was at a Liberal fundraiser.

“Now we’ve learned that the architect of a heavily armed, illegal casino operation in Markham has twice had facetime with this prime minister and surprise, he also has ties to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party),” said Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett in question period.

“Canadians deserve to know: is the prime minister’s proximity to the Chinese Communist Party elites in Canada affecting his ability to protect Canadian interests?”

Commentary: When China gets up to no good, Canada must do more than wag a finger

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Trudeau made no mention of the meeting with the China Cultural Industry Association and said only that the Liberal Party makes its fundraising events open to the media and publishes lists of attendees.

“We have always followed all the rules around fundraising and will continue to, but we actually went above and beyond that in making sure all of our fundraisers are done in public spaces and we invite the media to it and publish the list of people who attend,” Trudeau responded.

“We encourage the Conservative Party of Canada to do exactly the same.”

Barrett said Trudeau should hope Canadians “don’t judge him by the company he keeps.”

“Why should Canadians trust this defective Liberal government complete with its ‘Made in China’ sticker?” he continued.

Click to play video 'Canada has ‘to take stronger, more principled approach’ to China, O’Toole says' Canada has ‘to take stronger, more principled approach’ to China, O’Toole says
Canada has ‘to take stronger, more principled approach’ to China, O’Toole says

“I won’t address that question but again, it points out that the Conservatives are focused on scoring political points at a time where Canadians expect people to come together and work for them in this COVID crisis,” Trudeau said.

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“We will continue to focus on supporting Canadians in this second wave.”

Wei is facing 21 charges related to the illegal operation of a betting house, unsafe storage of a firearm, possession of weapons for a dangerous purpose, possession of a stolen firearm and possession of the proceeds of crime, among other charges.

Twenty-eight others are also charged in the bust, dubbed Project End Game by police.