OTTAWA — The trial for former Liberal MP Raj Grewal, who stands accused of using his political office for personal financial gain, will extend until at least this fall.
The ex-Brampton politician faces two breach of trust charges related to a series of loans he took out to pay for gambling debts, which he kept hidden from the federal ethics commissioner while he served in Ottawa.
Though the trial was originally only scheduled through late this month, Grewal’s fate is now left hanging for an extended hiatus, with further hearings tentatively scheduled for November.
The Crown has tried to establish that Grewal offered help with visas or special access to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in exchange for financial help from friends and businesspeople in his riding.
A key witness told an Ontario court last week that he expected no special favours in return for a $200,000 loan that he gave to Grewal shortly before he attended a private meet-and-greet with Trudeau in India.
Yusuf Yenilmez, an Ontario businessman, testified during cross-examination that as a well-connected Liberal party member, he needed no help from Grewal in accessing Liberal officials.
Yenilmez’s presence at a New Delhi reception during Trudeau’s February 2018 official visit was at issue in the trial, with a former Liberal staffer testifying earlier that his name was on a shortlist of five guests Grewal invited to the meet-and-greet.
But Yenilmez said the event had nothing to do with the loan and he had already met Trudeau five or six other times.
It was not clear to him that he was accessing anything “exclusive” or meant for “VIPs” by lining up for a photo with Trudeau at the party, he said.
And he noted that the pictures from the India event weren’t even the best ones he had taken with this prime minister _ he already had other snaps from “more private” settings.
Since Grewal’s trial began early last month, the court has heard testimony from a variety of witnesses who said he asked them for loans while he was sitting as a federal MP.
Yenilmez and several other Brampton-based witnesses told the court that they provided the large sums because they trusted Grewal and considered him to be a friend — and stated that they’d provided similar amounts to other trusted friends in the past.
Another Ontario businessman, Andy Dhugga, had testified that in his community it is not unusual for people to help each other out in this way.
Both witnesses said they were not aware that Grewal, a lawyer who was elected to represent Brampton East in 2015, needed the money because of a brewing gambling problem.
Grewal resigned from the Liberal party caucus after his addiction came to public light in late 2018, and he did not run again in the 2019 election.
At the time of his resignation, he said that he had sought treatment for his gambling addiction, that he only took loans from friends and family and that he had paid off all his debt.
The RCMP charged Grewal in 2020 with four counts of breach of trust and one count of fraud over $5,000, but only two breach of trust charges remain.
The next hearings are currently scheduled for the week of Nov. 14.
— With a file from Erika Ibrahim