BRAMPTON, Ont. — A faithful Liberal supporter is accusing Conservative MP Parm Gill of charging his credit card for a substantial donation without his knowledge — actions he thinks the RCMP should investigate.
Jagdish Singh is a long-time Liberal donor who lives in Brampton, Ont., on the western end of the Greater Toronto Area. For the past several years, Singh has donated $400 to former Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt MP Jim Karygiannis.
He said he doesn't know Karygiannis and never met him. But a man named Harbhajan Singh (no relation), whom he met at a friend's house, asked Jagdish if he would donate — and being a Liberal since 1992 — he agreed.
But a few days ago, Singh discovered his credit card had been used without his authorization to make a $400 donation to Gill's Conservative Brampton North riding association.
"I shocked. Because that $400 not to be Liberal party, it's going to be to the Conservative party!" he told The Huffington Post Canada in an interview.
He told The Huffington Post Canada he called the number listed on his credit card bill for "Brampton North Conserv."
"The lady who answered the phone said 'This is Parm Gill office.' I said, 'Who gave you the authorization to take from my card?' And she said, 'You can talk to Harbhajan, Comrade, because he gave us your card information.'"
Harbhajan Singh is known in the Punjabi community as Comrade, a nickname that seems to stem from his time in India with the Communist party.
"I called to him and he made a story that we are giving donations before to Mr. James and he resigned now and that's why we shift," Singh said, referring to Karygiannis' resignation in April 2014.
Singh said he replied that while Comrade was free to shift allegiances, he himself didn't want to. When asked why Singh's credit card info was given to Gill's office, Comrade told Singh, "It's OK, no problem. You can next time don't pay and this time you can leave it."
When Singh asked for his money back, Comrade offered to repay it himself.
"I said, 'No, I don't need money from you. I need money from Parm Gill office to put into my account back,'" Singh recounted.
"I never given authorization to Conservative party or Mr. Parm Gill office to take a card. This is totally wrong. And I don't like it... This is actually, I can say stolen."
Gill, who is running for re-election, did not respond to specific questions regarding his dealings with Comrade. His only response, through text message, was that "financial matters are handled entirely by the electoral district association (EDA), and independently from my campaign."
He referred calls to his electoral district association. His wife, who is the financial agent for the riding — and whose cellphone number is listed on Singh's credit card bill — did not respond to request for comment.
Conservative spokesperson Stephen Lecce told HuffPost in an email that the Brampton North EDA received a request from Jagdish Singh to refund a contribution this month and "the donation in question was immediately refunded."
"The EDA is currently investigating whether there are other donations involving Harbajhan Singh," Lecce said in the email. "Harbajhan Singh has no role on the campaign."
'Very well-known in the community'
Comrade also did not answer multiple requests from HuffPost for comment. He did not answer the door when we visited his home.
The community organizer's friends, a family member, and acquaintances told HuffPost that he is a retired taxi driver who lives in Etobicoke, Ont.
Mukhtiar Singh, who used to drive a taxi with him, said in an interview with HuffPost that Comrade was very close with Karygiannis, and pictures of the two were often in ethnic newspapers when they travelled to India.
"If people are having trouble getting a passport or a visa, he usually helps the people. He will get them a passport and sort out whatever problems they have with the Canadian consulate. He is very, very well-known in the community," Singh said, adding that he has known Comrade for 25 years.
In Ottawa, Karygiannis was notorious for his aggressive pursuit of immigration issues within the office of then-minister Jason Kenney — to the point of department staff accusing Karygiannis of verbal abuse.
A close friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Comrade charged people for help, then sought assistance from Karygiannis. In return, he raised funds for the MP.
"He was collecting money from a lot of people, all over Toronto and outside of Toronto as well," the friend said. "He got a lot of help [with immigration] from Jim Karygiannis."
"With Parm, I really don't know," the person added. "I don't know anything about his relations with Parm Gill, I think he works for him. Right now, he is supporting him."
Half a dozen men in the community recounted similar stories to HuffPost about Comrade helping with immigration cases and raising money, but none of this information was independently verified.
Karygiannis, who is now a Toronto city councillor for Ward 39 in Scarborough, also did not return a request for comment.
'He helps the people'
Singh said he never gave Comrade any money and never sought his assistance. He just believed he was a "helpful person."
"He helps the people, like if nobody can speak in English, he go with him to the lawyer's office, or he can get the ticket, or small things...That's why the people like him."
Karygiannis' riding returns show pages upon pages of individuals, who mostly did not live in his riding and who have South Asian names, donating $400 each year.
Singh said Comrade approached him around 2009 to donate whatever amount he wished to the Grits. He signed an authorization form for the Liberal party and agreed to give $400. Comrade would phone Singh every year after that to re-confirm a donation, and the Liberal supporter readily agreed.
Election Canada records show Singh's name only twice, however, on two election returns for Karygiannis' riding association: in 2009 and 2013.
"I'm surprised not to see my name here," he told HuffPost, looking at the detailed 2011 return. That year someone donated to the party with his name but postal code information suggests they lived in Etobicoke not in Brampton.
This year, Comrade called Singh again to ask for a donation to the Liberals. Singh's credit card had expired so he gave him a new number: "He took the money, not a problem."
Singh said he is speaking out because he suspects there are several other people who might have unsuspectingly donated to Gill without explicit approval.
"According to my knowledge, [Comrade] has more than 200 people like me who pay him for Liberals, and now maybe he don't tell to anybody [he switched parties] because he don't tell to me.
"Not everybody checks their credit card every month," he added.
"[Comrade] can switch parties, nobody can stop him but if it is 200 people who have given him their personal card for the Liberal party…This is not the right way. They have to let us know. And if we agree and we give him the authorization, then it is not a problem. But I think he don't tell to anybody. If the RCMP investigate a lot of people will come out, it is a big scandal according to my knowledge."
HuffPost attempted to compare the donor lists between Karygiannis and Gill but 2015 donations are not due until next year. There is almost no overlap in previous years.
'I need answers'
Singh told HuffPost he is particularly upset because Gill is a "known person" and an MP.
"He's a member of Parliament and he doesn't know about the law?... Maybe he need money, that's it."
"I think it's fraud," he added. "If I don't given any authorization and without my information, without my authorization, he took my money from my card. This is the fraud.
"I need justice… I need answers from Mr. Parm Gill office, or especially Parm Gill, why he took money from my card?"
Gill's riding association in Brampton—Springdale had few donors during his first years in office.
In 2011, Gill declared 135 supporters who helped him raise $106,540. In 2012, he said six donors had given him $2,600. In 2013, like some other Tory MPs awaiting new riding boundaries, he declared no donations at all.
But in 2014, in his new riding of Brampton North, Gill received $180,975 from 267 contributors, making his riding association one of the richest in the country.
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