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#374758 - 04/27/10 06:00 PM Jaffer and Guergis
Stephen J Maher Offline

I'm a Canadian political journalist seeking information on the possibility of any business connections in Ambergris Caye by two Canadian politicians -- Rahim Jaffer and Helena Guergis.

If you have any information or suggestions, please contact me at smaher (at) herald.ca.

Here's my story from today's paper:



http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/1179454.html

Their place in the sun
Guergis, Jaffer had a little side trip to Temptation Island
By STEPHEN MAHER Ottawa Bureau
Tue. Apr 27 - 4:53 AM

[Canadian developer Bob Dhillon, Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow, San Pedro Mayor Elsa Paz, Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Jr., and Dhillon's colleague, David Mitchell are shown here on July 11, 2008. The Canadian businessmen had just presented a cheque worth about $250,000 to the San Pedro mayor. (SAN PEDRO SUN)</p> ]

Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer meet schoolchildren in a village in Belize while on an official visit to that country in July 2008. Guergis was secretary of state for international trade at the time. (Government of Canada)

[Canadian developer Bob Dhillon, Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow, San Pedro Mayor Elsa Paz, Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Jr., and Dhillon's colleague, David Mitchell are shown here on July 11, 2008. The Canadian businessmen had just presented a cheque worth about $250,000 to the San Pedro mayor. (SAN PEDRO SUN)</p> ]

Canadian developer Bob Dhillon, Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow, San Pedro Mayor Elsa Paz, Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Jr., and Dhillon's colleague, David Mitchell are shown here on July 11, 2008. The Canadian businessmen had just presented a cheque worth about $250,000 to the San Pedro mayor. (SAN PEDRO SUN)



Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer flew to the resort isle of Ambergris Caye, Belize, to dine with wealthy Canadian property developer Navjeet (Bob) Dhillon and Belizean politicians during an unauthorized side trip from a state visit in July 2008.

At the time, Guergis was secretary of state for international trade. Jaffer was accompanying her but had no official role on the trip to the Central American country. He was an Edmonton MP but lost an election in October of that year, after which the two married.

On April 9, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked Guergis to resign as minister for the status of women, ejected her from the Conservative caucus and referred to the RCMP "serious and credible allegations" about her, in the words of spokesman Dimitri Soudas.

Sources say that some of the allegations are related to her trip to Belize. Other sources say she "went AWOL," flying to Ambergris Caye against the advice of officials.

The Foreign Affairs and International Trade Department said Monday that if Guergis went to Ambergris Caye, she did so on her own.

"The official program did not include a trip to Ambergris Caye," said an email from a spokeswoman. "The official program unfolded as scheduled."

The government did not comment on the allegation that Guergis travelled there against the advice of officials.

The political staffer who travelled with her, Idee Inyangudor, no longer works for the government and did not return messages.

Guergisís lawyer, Howard Rubel, who also represented Jaffer in his careless driving case, declined to comment Monday on any part of her Belize trip.

"We have stated that we will not be responding to these unfounded and spurious allegations until we can do so in the appropriate forum, and without interfering with the current ongoing reviews," Rubel said. "We look forward to putting these very unfair rumours to rest."

Guergis and Jaffer say they have done nothing wrong and deny the widely reported but unproven allegation that offshore companies were opened for them in Belize. Private detective Derrick Snowdy has said a former business associate of Jafferís, Nazim Gillani, indicated to him that companies registered in Belize or Panama were set aside for Jaffer: Sugar Cain Invest & Trade Inc. and Zundilon Associated Corp.

In testimony before a parliamentary committee last week, Jaffer was reluctant to acknowledge having travelled to Belize.

"Have you ever been to Belize or Panama?" asked Bloc Quebecois MP Michel Guimond.

"No, I have never been to Panama," responded Jaffer.

After being asked six times by Guimond, Jaffer acknowledged travelling to Belize but said he didnít do business there.

"I have no idea about any of these types of business dealings in Belize because I have no interest in Belize. I donít think I would be having the financial difficulty that Iím having trying to build a new business if I had interest in Belize. So this was complete rumour and innuendo and has nothing to do with the trip that the secretary of state, I believe, for trade had gone when she went on her own trip."

Dhillon, a prominent Alberta property developer and philanthropist who has been investing in Belize for 18 years, said Monday he never did business with Jaffer or Guergis.

"Have I ever done business with them?" Dhillon said. "The answer is no, no, no, no, no."

Dhillon is a self-made property magnate with a 1,200-hectare tourism development on scenic Ambergris Caye. He was one of three Indo-Canadian businessmen who accompanied Harper on a trip to India in November 2009. He is reportedly on his way to being the first Sikh-Canadian billionaire.

In an email, he described their dinner as an official occasion.

"In my capacity as consul for Belize in Canada, I did attend a dinner for Ms. Guergis (this was the first and only time I have met her) in Belize in 2008 hosted by the government of Belize that was attended by about 15 (to) 20 people; her husband was also present."

In a phone call, Dhillon said he had no reason to think anything was odd at the time, and he only spent a few hours with Jaffer and Guergis.

"I realize things have turned for them," Dhillon said. "At that particular time, it was a great honour to be sitting with a cabinet minister from Canada."

National Post society columnist Shinan Govani, who was staying at Dhillonís beach house writing his novel, Bold Face Names, was at the dinner and had the impression that Dhillon was the host and picked up the tab, as he usually did. Before dinner, they went for a boat ride "for many hours" with Jaffer and Guergis.

"I remember she was peeling quite badly," he said.

Later, they dined at Matachica Beach Resort, which has a swanky restaurant that was used for some scenes of the reality TV show Temptation Island.

Govani doesnít recall any business talk, but he wasnít impressed by Guergis.

"I remember her talking a lot about her wedding and thinking to myself and saying to others later, ĎI canít believe sheís a cabinet minister,í " he said. "She was beyond unimpressive. It seemed like a Legally Blonde thing to me, but without the sparks that the Legally Blonde character actually had."

Also present at the dinner was Elsa Paz, the mayor of San Pedro.

Earlier that day, or the day before, Dhillon was photographed presenting the mayor with a cheque for about C$250,000. Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia were also on hand, as well as Dhillonís longtime business associate, David Mitchell.

The gift to the town has since become controversial, as a subdivision being built by Mitchell has angered locals who complain the town has allowed Mitchell to damage the environment by bulldozing mangrove forests and dredging shallow water without proper environmental permits, leading to fish kills.

Mitchell, who is said to be publicity shy, could not be reached for comment.

Forms on his developmentís website show that payments for subdivision lots go to Sugar Caye Development Ltd. S.A. at the Atlantic International Bank Ltd. in Belize.

Brian Kilgore, a spokesman for Gillani, said the names Dhillon, Mitchell and Ambergris Caye "all mean nothing to Nazim Gillani."

He said Gillani is looking forward to testifying in front of a parliamentary committee Wednesday. Gillani faces fraud charges for a money transfer in which another man, Alexander Wiafe, was convicted last week.

Snowdy has said the RCMP are investigating Guergis, but the RCMP havenít confirmed that and have said they would only confirm it if charges were laid.

( smaher@herald.ca)

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#374762 - 04/27/10 06:23 PM Re: Jaffer and Guergis [Re: Stephen J Maher]
champion Offline
Now the worms begin to surface!
_________________________
Reality is only an illusion that occurs due to a lack of alcohol

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#374766 - 04/27/10 06:51 PM Re: Jaffer and Guergis [Re: champion]
Keller Offline
Why would officials advise against going to Ambergris Caye? Seems like a perfectly logical thing to do if you ask me when you are already in Belize.

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#374767 - 04/27/10 06:56 PM Re: Jaffer and Guergis [Re: Keller]
Peter Jones Offline
I think that's a misquote. By "unauthorised" I think they merely meant "unofficial".

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#374770 - 04/27/10 07:08 PM Re: Jaffer and Guergis [Re: Peter Jones]
Keller Offline
You could be right Peter. Amazing how journalists can just blame it on "sources".

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#374793 - 04/27/10 09:56 PM Re: Jaffer and Guergis [Re: Keller]
grant3wishes Offline
I really do not care about a minister from any country doing an "unofficial" visit to our little island, but I do like to see the little dig at the ****hole Mitchell, who is getting away with murder here....

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#374796 - 04/27/10 10:52 PM Re: Jaffer and Guergis [Re: grant3wishes]
Keller Offline
The isotope crisis was "sexy", so now the Chronicle Herald hopes to find a "temptation island" scandal.

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#374798 - 04/27/10 11:50 PM Re: Jaffer and Guergis [Re: Keller]
skank Offline
Stephen;
Further exposure of losers Jaffer and Guergis is a dead end. Why not pick up on the REAL story that Canadians (and anyone who cares about Belize) should know. That is, how Bob Dhillon and David Mitchell has been butchering the environment on Ambergris, and it has been helped along by their buying of the mayor and town council. All at the expense of the environment and the long term health of the already overdeveloped Island. These guys are giving Canadians a bad name in Belize. Expose that properly to the public. That is a much bigger story than the now buried Jaffer Guergis goofs.

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#375089 - 04/30/10 05:05 PM Re: Jaffer and Guergis [Re: skank]
Marty Online   happy
man this story has gotten beyond huge in the British media.


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#375091 - 04/30/10 05:30 PM Re: Jaffer and Guergis [Re: Marty]
beachbumin Offline
Minister Heredia is certainly getting a lot of press, internationally and locally, these days......none of it good.

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