I was a little surprised by and disappointed with Jonathan Fowlie’s story this morning about cranberry magnate and search warrant target Peter Dhillon.
In an ITO accompanying search warrants on Kash Heed’s constituency office and former workplace at the West Van Police Department, the RCMP accuse Dhillon of making an undeclared contribution to Heed’s campaign contrary to Section 263 of the Election’s Act.
Dhillon’s reaction was predictable. “I have done absolutely nothing wrong,” Dhillon told Fowlie.
He went on to repeat what he told the RCMP: “I absolutely did not send that money to be used in the Kash Heed campaign. It was for other work that was supposed to be done for me by Mr. Sall.”
“That’s what happened and I have no knowledge of my money being misappropriated,” Dhillon concluded. “It’s actually been very offensive to me.”
And Fowlie notes that’s basically what Dhillon told the police when they interviewed him. “The warrant.” Fowlie writes, “shows Dhillon told police the money was to be used to print promotional brochures for the cranberry industry. The warrant says the cranberry brochures were never made, and alleges that Dhillon broke the Election Act by paying the money to Heed’s campaign without properly disclosing it to election officials.
And then Fowlie quotes RCMP Sgt. John Taylor from the warrant, “I do not believe that Peter Dhillon’s statement was truthful,”
And that’s what’s disappointing about the article. Fowlie lets Dhillon have his say – fair enough – but he doesn’t go on to tell why Taylor found Dhillon’s statement untruthful. It’s not hard to find. There’s a wealth of detail in the warrants.
First there is the issue of the money.
According to the warrants Dhillon told the RCMP he gave Heed’s campaign manager Barinder Sall two cheques for $2500 and $5000, made out to North American Mailing for promotional brochures for the cranberry industry. He said, four months after the election campaign, he told Sall he wasn’t going ahead with the brochure idea and wanted his money back.
Here are the questions I wish Fowlie had asked Dhillon about the money – questions raised by the information in the warrants: How does Dhillon explain the fact that the money he says he paid in advance to a mailing company for cranberry brochures just happen to equal the exact cost of the anti-ndp brochures produced for the Heed campaign? Is it Dhillon’s standard practice to pay for brochures before they are even designed, ordered or invoiced? Dhillon says he asked for the money back when he changed his mind four months later, but he didn’t pursue that. Why?
Think about it. Dhillion is a very successful businessman and the largest shareholder in Ocean Spray. The cranberry brochure story doesn’t seem like a very business like deal for someone like that.
Then there’s the issue of what appears to be Dhillon’s misstatement of his relationship with Heed.
In his RCMP interview Dhillon said “he had absolutely nothing to do with Kash Heed’s campaign adding; Kash Heed was the last person he would ever write a political donation to; and Barinder Sall knew not to come to talk to him about anything about Kash Heed, because he disliked Kash Heed.
But that’s not what other sources said. According to email records seized from Sall’s residence, Dhillon was on the email list for TEAM KASH and received at least 25 emails.
And Sameer Ismail, the volunteer who went back to police to admit he had drafted the anti-ndp pamphlets on Sall’s orders, also provided information about Dhillon’s involvement in the campaign.
Ismail said Dhillon was involved with the campaign, albeit to small extent: “Peter Dhillon had fairly minimal involvement in the campaign… Dhillon advised a little bit on strategy.” The warrant goes on to describe a meeting where Dhillon helped write an ad for Heed; “there was one meeting where Sameer Ismail, Barinder Sall and Peter Dhillon ‘hashed out the wording for an ad in the Courier at a Starbucks in Richmond’ (where Heed and Dhillon live).
Towards the end of the Sun story Dhillon again asserts he was “never” involved in Heed’s campaign. So what about that meeting in the Richmond Starbuck’s? How about the campaign email distribution list? Why is he seen hugging Heed on election night in a pic seized from Barinder Sall’s cell phone? And then there’s the “money guy” description in the Barinder Sall/Catherine Urquhart email exchange.
I’d say it all adds up to a tougher interview than the one printed in the Sun.