Former Liberal MP Raj Grewal was acquitted on breach of trust charges Friday after an Ottawa judged deemed the Crown’s case lacked sufficient evidence. The Crown accused Grewal of using his political office to solicit loans from supporters to cover substantial gambling debts.
The Brampton-area MP allegedly endured significant losses at Quebec casinos, namely, Casino du Lac-Leamy. As a result, he then allegedly traded access to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and assistance on immigration files in exchange for loans.
However, as explained by Ontario Superior Court Justice Sylvia Corthorn, the Crown’s case against Grewal proved to be wildly inept.
Justice Corthorn determined there was no evidence to support an inference of guilt. In fact, the lack of evidence was so stark, she issued her decision before the defence introduced evidence. The legal term for this type of ruling is “directed verdict.”
Not guilty verdict brings end to five-year legal battle
After hearing the two words he had been waiting on for nearly half a decade, Grewal shared his thoughts with a group of reporters huddled outside the Ottawa courthouse.
“In the nearly five years since this all began I’ve remained optimistic — even though vindication has been incredibly delayed.
“There’s a presumption of innocence in the criminal justice system. There is a resounding presumption of guilt in the court of public opinion.”
Grewal left the Liberal caucus in 2018 after his gambling problem caught the public eye. Following his exit, he chose not to run for re-election in 2019.
In 2020, the RCMP formally charged Grewal with four counts of breach of trust and one count of fraud over $5,000. However, just two breach of trust charges remained by the end of the court proceedings.
Specifically, prosecutors alleged that two businessmen in Grewal’s riding, who supplied him separate $200,000 loans, also attended events during Trudeau’s trip to India in 2018. But at trial, both men testified that they didn’t expect access to said events in exchange for the loans.
Grewal’s defence team holds firm in his favour
Grewal’s lawyer, Nader Hasan, continued to support his client’s innocence in a series of statements following Justice Corthorn’s decision.
“A conscientious judge saw the prosecution for what it was: ill-founded and unprovable. Unprovable because there was no criminal activity and no criminal intent.”
Furthermore, Hasan denounced the “fragile core” of the prosecution’s case, calling the evidence a “grave cultural misunderstanding. Donors to Grewal’s political services, who classify themselves as friends and family, testified that it was not uncommon for community members in Brampton to help each other with significant loans.
“The suggestion that people received favours in exchange for helping him out, helping out a fellow community member in need, there just wasn’t evidence to support that,” Hasan continued.
“The Crown didn’t drop the ball. The facts speak for themselves. The evidence was poor.”
As for the Crown prosecutors in this case, Tim Wightman and Chantal Lefebvre, both declined to speak with reporters.