While Toronto Police stay silent on what they may have netted in a massive drug raid Thursday, the hacking collective known as Anonymous appears to be on the trail of the alleged Rob Ford video.
A tweet from the group's news feed suggests the video, purportedly showing the Toronto mayor smoking crack cocaine, is in Alberta.
Last month, news site Gawker dropped a bombshell, claiming to have seen a smartphone video of the Toronto mayor smoking what the site described as crack cocaine from a glass pipe.
Additionally, two Toronto Star reporters also say they have seen the video -- which was being peddled to media, apparently by drug dealers who had secretly produced it. The alleged video has since disappeared, along with its creators, according to Gawker.
For his part, Ford has repeatedly denied the video's existence and says he does not use crack.
But the allegations have continued to dog the mayor, especially in light of this week's mass arrests in Toronto's west end.
According to the Toronto Star, police descended on six towers lining the north side of Dixon Rd., just east of Kipling Ave early Thursday morning -- not far from where Ford was photographed with three young men in front of a house at 15 Windsor Rd.
The photo is contentious for several reasons: It was provided to Gawker and The Star reporters who viewed the alleged crack video by the same men trying to sell the footage. The photo shows Ford with three men. One of them, Anthony Smith, was shot dead outside a Toronto nightclub two months ago.
The other two men in the photo were among 43 people arrested Thursday. Seizures included 40 firearms, $3 million in drugs and more than half a million dollars in cash. And a certain much-talked about video?
“All of the evidence has been secured and it will come out in court where it belongs,” Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair told reporters Thursday afternoon. “We will not jeopardize this case.”
The police chief was pressed repeatedly on the possible tape at the presser, fielding question after question about its existence -- and, in another twist, the possibility that Ford's name came up in police surveillance recordings from the targeted neighbourhood.
CTV News has cited a highly placed, unnamed source claiming the tape's existence was known to Toronto police before Gawker story broke.
CTV suggests police overheard suspects discussing the video in detail over wiretaps, during the year-long prelude to the raids.
Blair refused to comment on any evidence, citing the law and his hope for a clean prosecution. But he also made no effort to exonerate the mayor, which left several media outlets to read between the lines.
"I don't answer to the mayor," he told reporters during a post-raid press conference Thursday.
For his part, the mayor spoke briefly to reporters before going into a city council meeting, the National Post reports.
"Okay, my cable was out, I know as much as you guys know," he said. "I got into the car this morning, reporters were at my house. I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about until I got into the car."
The raids also involved other Ontario cities, including Windsor, Guelph and Waterloo.
The Toronto Star reports on another potential wrinkle in this saga -- one developing in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
That's where police arrested a man linked to the alleged video in May, the newspaper reports. It's also where another young man fell six storeys from the same apartment on the day of the Toronto raids. That man, Hanad Mohamed of Toronto, was charged with first-degree murder in the March 28 fatal shooting of Anthony Smith (who appears in the photograph with Rob Ford), the Globe and Mail reports.
If there is an Alberta connection to the alleged video, Anonymous claims to be zeroing in on it -- perhaps looking to be a little more forthcoming with the results of their hunt than law enforcement seems, so far, to be.
It wouldn't be the first time, the hacking collective has intervened in Toronto politics.
During the Occupy movement in 2011, Anonymous issued Ford a warning about cracking down on protesters.
"The brave citizens of Toronto are peaceful and well-mannered occupiers, and we will not let the City or the mayor that uses vulgar language in public get involved," a computer-generated voice said in a YouTube video. "You have said by next week, the occupiers shall be removed. And we say be next week if you do not change your mind, you shall be removed from the Internet. We have already planned for this."
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