Tuesday, June 07, 2005

June 7, 2004: Sangha confirms that Kalia asked for Dosanjh's number (CBC interview)

Tough days for Gurmant Grewal
CBC News Online | June 8, 2005

From The National
June 7, 2005
Reporter: Terry Milewski

These must be tough days for Gurmant Grewal. The B.C. Conservative MP is taking some time off on stress leave.

The stress really started to crank up after he made an allegation about conversations that he secretly recorded with high-ranking Liberals. Since then, there has been a lot of finger pointing.

At the Grewal home in Surrey there is silence. There has been no comment from either Gurmant Grewal or his wife, Nina, both Conservative MPs.

But everyone else is talking about the man who arrived in national politics with a bang during the 1997 election when he won big as a reformer. This was an immigrant success story: Gurmant Grewal's rapid rise from carpet salesman to member of Parliament.

But now even his friends are turning against him.

Sudesh Kalia
Sudesh Kalia is the man in the middle of the wrangling over who made the first phone call.

“This is my office telephone,” Kalia says. “Mr. Grewal called me six, seven times within 10 days before May 15th looking for me, and I have on call display his number May 7th from his house to my office, and he left a message ‘please call me,’ he's looking for me.”

Kalia was a supporter of Grewal in the last two campaigns raising money, knocking on doors, even though Kalia’s a Liberal.

He says that's why Grewal called him looking to join the Liberals, and not for the first time.

“Actually, two, three years back, he also talked to me about this,” Kalia says. “He wanted to join the Liberals.”

Kalia says the Liberals had a majority then and weren't interested, but that as last month's confidence vote drew near Grewal called him again looking for a cabinet post and a United Nations job for his wife.

“I ask him, ‘What I should tell them, what you want?’

“He said, ‘I want UN.’

“I said ‘UN for you?’

“He said, ‘No, for Nina.’

“So then I ask him, ‘Anything else? If UN not possible, anything else?’

“He said UN or Senate,” Kalia said. “[He said the Senate] ‘for Nina and cabinet for myself.’”

Amrik Sangha
Kalia's story that it was Grewal who called first and not the Liberals is supported by Amrik Sangha, a Surrey businessman who is a friend of Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh.

“He said he need to get hold of Mr. Dosanjh as soon as possible, and he was asking me his cell number,” Sangha said.

Sangha says the Grewals have lost any credibility in the Indo-Canadian community. He doesn’t think either Grewal can be re-elected.

“Those two people are history for our community and for Canada. I can tell you today. That's what I believe,” Sangha says.

Within the Indo-Canadian community in Surrey, it is now widely accepted that Grewal did approach the Liberals rather than the other way around.

But something else is emerging, some allegations that first came up during last year's election campaign about Grewal's citizenship in Canada.

Some of Grewal's former business partners have alleged that back in 1993 he engaged in a phoney business investment to qualify for Canadian citizenship. During the campaign, Grewal denied those charges, but now those former business partners are insisting that he pretended to invest $50,000 in a carpet company when really he did not.

Gurwinder Dhillon
Gurwinder Dhillon is a successful builder who sold his share of the carpet company to Grewal, at least on paper. This document shows the sale of the shares in April 1993 at a price of $50,000. But Dhillon says that was fiction. The shares were worthless, and he immediately gave the money back, although Grewal kept the shares. Was this transaction really a phoney transaction?

“Yeah, you could say that. It was basically, you know, he gave me the money to purchase a business and the next day he took the money back just to get the papers,” Dhillon says.

Dhillon says he agreed to this because he wanted to get out of a failing company, so he says he met Grewal in a parking lot and made a deal. Grewal would take over the shares that Dhillon didn't want and Dhillon would return the favour. There was a paper transaction. But no money changed hands really because Dhillon paid Grewal back the next day.

“If you say whether he invested into the company or into Canada for, you know, buying business in a paper fashion, yes, but on the very next day, he took the money back, yeah, and then he...”

“So the investment wasn't real?” the reporter asks.

“No, no,” Dhillon replies.

Dhillon's story is supported by another former partner in the carpet company, Nash Karim, who says Grewal got his citizenship but never really invested the $50,000.

Nash Karim
Karim says, “I did have a personal beef against him. He did reimburse me, but I know what type of character he is … He's a shady character.

“He had purchased one-third of the share through some sort of a phoney transaction where the money was never paid. Money was paid, but returned the very next day after transaction took place, and became a shareholder into Surrey Carpet Centre,” Karim says.

Still, for long-time supporters of Grewal like Sudesh Kalia, all of this history makes little difference. For Kalia, the issue is whether Grewal has a political future, and he thinks not.

“My understanding is he's finished because I talked to people in Surrey, and they're phoning me, even his close friends like me, they're upset now because of tapes. So, no, we don't like him anymore,” Kalia says. Grewal did not return calls seeking comment.