The Obhrai Inquiry
On May 10, 2005, I received a letter (dated May 9, 2005) from the Honourable Joseph Volpe,
the Member of Parliament for Eglinton-Lawrence. He provided me with several documents,
including two signed affidavits, which suggested that Mr. Deepak Obhrai, Member of Parliament
for Calgary East, may have contravened the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of
Commons (the Code). Specifically, it was suggested that Mr. Obhrai: i) had entered into
agreements in which he had been remunerated for assisting his sister-in-law and her family to
immigrate to Canada; ii) had subsequently coerced his sister-in-law’s husband to return to India;
and, iii) had accepted gifts in return for assisting other persons with immigration matters. Mr.
Volpe wrote: “I leave it to you to conduct your investigation as you see fit.”
Mr. Volpe indicated that a copy of his letter had been sent to the Honourable Stephen Harper,
then Leader of the Opposition. A copy of Mr. Volpe’s letter is included in Appendix III. A full
list of the allegations as set out in the documents provided by Mr. Volpe, as well as the
documents themselves, are included in Appendix IV.
The documents outlining the allegations, which included two affidavits and two letters, appeared
to have been originally made during the lead-up to the 2004 federal general election by Mr.
Obhrai’s brother-in-law, Mr. Aman Anand. They thus predated the existence of the MP Code,
which came into effect on October 4, 2004. The allegations surfaced again in the Spring of
2005. While the allegations were serious and the documents provided by Mr. Volpe included
affidavits suggesting that Mr. Anand had direct knowledge of serious breaches of the MP Code
by Mr. Obhrai, it should be stressed that the Code has no retroactive effect. However, my
inquiries can be retrospective, if the allegations referred to related to the conduct which would have
continued beyond October 4, 2004. Since the issue of whether Mr. Volpe had specifically
requested an inquiry arose, in order to remove any ambiguity in this regard, based upon the
information available, I concluded there were reasonable grounds to believe a breach of the
Code may have occurred. As a consequence, I instituted an inquiry.
Sections 8 and 9 of the Code deal with the circumstances under which Members perform their
parliamentary duties and functions and in which they may use their positions to influence the
decisions of others. Section 14(1) of the Code deals with the receipt of gifts and benefits by
Members of the House of Commons. These sections of the Code are reproduced in Appendix
Two days after receiving the documentation from Mr. Volpe, I met with Mr. Obhrai at his
request on May 12, 2005. Mr. Obhrai indicated that he was aware of the allegations made
against him and we discussed them in some detail. He told me that the allegations were entirely
false and were the result of a family dispute. He explained that his sister-in-law, Mrs. Laxmi
Anand, had moved to Canada from India with her husband, Mr. Aman Anand, and their two
sons in 2003. While in Canada, the family had split. One of the sons had returned to India to
study in early 2004. Mr. Anand had returned to India in April 2004, while his wife and their
other son remained in Canada. Mr. Obhrai indicated that Mr. Anand was attempting to coerce
Mrs. Anand into returning to India with their son and that he was trying to blackmail her via
these allegations levelled against Mr. Obhrai. Mr. Obhrai indicated that Mrs. Anand could corroborate this. In fact, he explained that she had flown into Ottawa from Calgary and would
be available to speak with me. A formal interview with Mrs. Anand took place May 14.
In May and June 2005 Mr. Obhrai provided my Office with several documents as well as a taped
recording of a telephone conversation which both he and Mrs. Anand identified as being
between Mrs. Anand and Mr. Anand. It appeared to corroborate Mr. Obhrai’s claim that the
allegations resulted from a family dispute. During the taped conversation, it appears that Mr.
Anand denies outright having given money to Mr. Obhrai. Mr. Anand also suggests the
allegation documents were prepared by another relative of Mr. Obhrai’s living in Calgary. It
soon became evident from these conversations that Mr. Anand appeared willing to retract all the
allegations in exchange for the return of his wife and youngest child to India.
In order to assess the reliability and trustworthiness of the information obtained from both Mr.
Volpe and Mr. Obhrai, my Office interviewed several witnesses in Ottawa and Calgary and, in
the Fall of 2005, my Office was also able to interview Mr. Anand, in Chittorgarh, India. A full
list of the witnesses interviewed for this Inquiry appears in Appendix II.
My inquiries confirmed that Mr. Anand and his family came to Canada in September 2003 on
Temporary Resident Permits. Within months of their arrival, relations between Mr. Anand and
his wife, on one hand, and Mr. Anand and the Obhrai family, on the other, deteriorated. In two
separate instances police were called in to respond to domestic disturbances. As a result of the
second instance, Mrs. Anand applied for and was granted an Ex Parte Restraining Order on
March 30, 2004. That Order was set to be reviewed on April 15, 2004. On April 7, 2004 Mr.
Anand returned to India. His spouse and one of his two sons remained in Canada. His second
son had returned to India in early 2004.
During formal interviews with Mr. Anand in the presence of his lawyer, Mr. Anand volunteered
that he had paid money to Mr. Obhrai. However, my Office’s discussions with Mr. Anand also
bear out Mr. Obhrai’s assertion that Mr. Anand’s overriding concern was the return of his wife
and youngest child to India. During his interview, Mr. Anand repeatedly indicated that his only
concern was to secure the return of his family to India. When it became clear that my Office
could not help him in this regard he chose to cease cooperating with my Office. He refused to
put his statements in an affidavit or to provide further evidence.
When asked to comment specifically on an affidavit apparently signed by him, Mr. Anand
refused. Mr. Anand’s lawyer indicated that Mr. Obhrai had filed a complaint in Chittorgarh in
relation to this document and that local police were currently investigating. It should be noted
that validity of the affidavit is questionable. There appears to be no notary practicing in
Chittorgarh by the name “Daljit Singh Chadha”, whose name appears on the affidavit. This was
confirmed by Mr. Anand’s own lawyer and corroborated by a lawyer acting on my behalf, who
spoke with lawyers at the District Courts of Chittorgarh to confirm this fact.
In his interview, Mr. Anand stated that he had enjoyed a good relationship with Mr. Obhrai until
the end of December 2003 or early January 2004, when the relationship became bitter.
However, he added: “I did not get any threats from Mr. Obhrai.” Mr. Anand left Canada in
April of 2004 and did not return subsequently.
During this same interview, Mr. Anand repeated his allegation that Mr. Obhrai had accepted free
liquor in exchange for helping constituents in relation to immigration matters. However, his
allegations were only made in relation to events that would have allegedly taken place before the
Code came into effect on October 4, 2004.
In connection with the allegations related to the Anands’ immigration to Canada, Mr. Obhrai’s
spouse, Neena Obhrai, had communicated with my Office indicating that Mr. Obhrai was not
involved in any way with the Anands’ immigration file. With Mr. Anand’s consent, we were able
to obtain portions of some documents in Mr. Anand’s immigration file. There was no indication
from these documents that Mr. Obhrai had been involved in the file. Unfortunately, we were
unable to obtain the consent of Mrs. Anand, and were therefore unable to corroborate this
On October 24, 2005, this inquiry was suspended following formal notification from the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) that they were also investigating the allegations made against
Mr. Obhrai, as contained in the documents they had received from Mr. Volpe. The suspension
of the inquiry was done in accordance with section 29(1)(b)(i) of the Conflict of Interest Code for
Members of the House of Commons.
On January 31, 2007, the RCMP informed my Office that: “The investigation in reference to
the criminal allegations made against Mr. OBHRAI are insufficient to support Criminal or
Federal Statute charges in relation to this matter.” This permitted me to resume the inquiry
process, which had, at the time of suspension, reached the point of preparing a report to be
issued as required pursuant to section 28(1) of the Code.
Among the allegations contained in the documents forwarded to me by Mr. Volpe (Appendix
IV), three do not fall within my jurisdiction. Allegations #3 and #7 fall within the jurisdiction
the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons. Section 6 of the Conflict of Interest
Code for Members of the House of Commons states that: “Nothing in this Code affects the jurisdiction
of the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons to determine the propriety of the
use of any funds, goods, services or premises made available to Members for carrying out their
parliamentary duties and functions.” Allegation # 6 also does not fall within the scope of the
Code. As a result, I have not pursued these matters further.
Allegation #1 suggests that Mr. Obhrai acted in his official capacity to assist Mr. Anand and his
family to immigrate to Canada and that he requested, agreed to accept and/or received a
payment for this service. In examining this allegation, my Office has had to rely solely on
interviews with cooperative witnesses and taped evidence provided to my Office by Mr. Obhrai
himself. The evidence available of Mr. Anand, as it particularly relates to this allegation, is
contradictory, unreliable and inconclusive. As a consequence, I have concluded that this
allegation is not supported by the evidence. As well, it is clear from the information gathered
that there was no evidence indicating that the alleged activity would have continued beyond
October 4, 2004, which would mean that it would not have fallen within the parameters of the
Allegations #2 and #8 suggest that Mr. Obhrai coerced Mr. Anand into leaving Canada. In
addition to the contradictory and unreliable nature of Mr. Anand’s evidence, it is worth noting,
as I have already indicated, that he testified that he was not under threat to either return or, subsequently, to remain in India. As a consequence, I have concluded that these allegations are
not supported by the evidence.
Allegation #4 deals with Mr. Obhrai having received free liquor for immigration assistance.
Although Mr. Anand repeated this allegation when interviewed, his testimony, as I have already
indicated, was both contradictory and unreliable. In addition, as noted above, it relates to events
which would have taken place before Mr. Anand’s departure from Canada in April 2004, a time
prior to the MP Code coming into force (i.e., October 4, 2004). For these reasons, I have
concluded that this allegation is not supported by the evidence available.
Allegations #5 and #9 again relate to the claim that Mr. Obhrai improperly helped the Anand
family immigrate to Canada. However, they do not make any claim to the effect that Mr. Obhrai
requested, agreed to accept or received a payment in exchange for doing so. Nonetheless, they
suggest that Mr. Obhrai “improperly” furthered the interests of the Anand family by making or
supporting false claims on their behalf. The only evidence in support of these allegations was
that of Mr. Anand, which has been found to be contradictory and unreliable. As well, no
additional information or evidence indicates that this alleged conduct continued or occurred
following the coming into force of the MP Code. Accordingly, I have concluded that this
allegation is not supported by the evidence.
A NOTE ON PROCESS
On September 26, 2005, Mr. Obhrai raised a question of privilege in the House of Commons,
citing several concerns related to the process followed in this investigation. As I could not
comment on an ongoing inquiry, I was unable to publicly address those concerns at the time. I
am now able to do so.
Mr. Obhrai suggested that I had failed to observe two sections of the Code. These were section
27(7), which requires me to conduct my inquiries in private, and section 27(4), which requires
me to give the Member involved reasonable written notice of a decision to initiate an inquiry.
In regards to section 27(7), Mr. Obhrai’s concerns relate to the following statements attributed
to me by Jack Aubry of the Ottawa Citizen: “I have some material that suggests something
inappropriate was happening. If true, it seemed worth looking into. If untrue, it will turn out not
to be.” As I indicated in my testimony before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House
Affairs (PROC) of the House of Commons in October and November 2005, my intent had
been merely to confirm that an inquiry was indeed ongoing. In hindsight, however, I understand
that my comments were somewhat ambiguous and open to misinterpretation. In the future,
therefore, I will limit my media comments in relation to any inquiry to a simple and clear
confirmation that an inquiry is proceeding and nothing else.
As for Mr. Obhrai’s claim that I failed to observe section 27(4), I can say that Mr. Obhrai was
aware from the very outset as to how the matter was progressing. As indicated above, Mr.
Obhrai and Mrs. Anand cooperated closely with my Office from the time Mr. Volpe first
brought these allegations to my attention. Indeed, two (2) days after I received the documents
alleging violations of the MP Code from Minister Volpe, Mr. Obhrai informed me personally
that he was aware of the allegations contained in the documents. I received further documentation from Mr. Obhrai and Mrs. Anand in May and June. During this time Mr.
Obhrai was being informed on a regular basis of how the inquiry was progressing.
In late May, my Office had begun searching for a lawyer in India who would be able to interview
Mr. Anand if necessary. My Office attempted to contact both Mr. Obhrai and Mrs. Anand on
July 6, 2005 to update them on these developments, request additional documents and discuss
the possibility of having a lawyer working on our behalf in India liaise with Mr. Obhrai’s own
lawyer there. Although, Mrs. Anand agreed to send some documents which we had requested
earlier, she refused to cooperate further with my Office, asking that we refrain from contacting
her in the future. Mr. Obhrai did not return three messages left at his constituency office.
Instead, I received a letter from him on July 14, 2005 questioning my decision to hire a lawyer in
India. He requested that my Office not talk to any of his family members and that our Office
limit the scope of our investigation to the allegation dealing with the Anand family’s immigration
to Canada. In addition, he asked that our final report be released only to the then Leader of the
Opposition, himself and Mr. Volpe.
On July 26, 2005 Mr. Obhrai sent me a letter raising doubts as to whether this inquiry had, in
fact, been specifically requested by Mr. Volpe. As the above indicates, until then, both my
Office and Mr. Obhrai had proceeded on the understanding that Mr. Volpe had requested this
inquiry. However, in order to remove any ambiguity in regards to process, I decided to pursue
the matter further through my self-initiation power. Mr. Obhrai was informed accordingly on
August 4, 2005. The Speaker of the House of Commons was informed in writing in anticipation
of the resumption of Parliament on September 29, 2005. The relevant documentation is
included in Appendix V to this Report.
While I was encouraged by the initial openness and cooperation being extended by Mr. Obhrai,
it appears that in our efforts to keep Mr. Obhrai informed regarding the inquiry process, he grew
apprehensive and unfortunately declined to cooperate any further with my Office. The
withdrawal of Mr. Obhrai’s cooperation was regrettable as his continued, cooperation may have
expedited my ability to conclude the inquiry and issue this Report. However, in order to assess
the reliability and trustworthiness of the information contained in the documents received from
Mr. Volpe, my Office interviewed Mr. Obhrai’s brother-in-law, Mr. Anand, the individual who
purportedly made all of the allegations. As a consequence of the information gathered and the
testimony provided, I am able to conclude two things. First, there was no credible evidence in
support of the allegations. Second, there was no evidence to indicate that the allegations relate
to conduct that would have occurred on or after October 4, 2004 or would have been initiated
before then and extended up to or past that date.
APPENDIX I - Costs
Aside from the costs represented in the time and effort of the staff in the Office of the Ethics
Commissioner, there were additional costs, primarily for travel and professional services,
involved in conducting this inquiry. All of these costs have been or will be absorbed by the
budget of the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, but for the general interest of readers of this
report, they are listed below:
Investigation expense report
APPENDIX II - Witnesses Interviewed
Conversation with the Honourable Joseph Volpe P.C., M.P.
Conversation with Mr. Deepak Obhrai P.C., M.P.
Mrs. Laxmi Anand, sister-in-law of Mr. Obhrai, and Akshay Anand, son of Mrs. Laxmi Anand
Mr. James Maxim, Liberal candidate in Calgary East, running against Mr. Obhrai, in the 2004
Mr. Joseph Alexander, friend of Mr. Aman Anand
Ms. Sunita Dhoopar, younger sister of Mrs. Neena Obhrai
Mr. Subhash Dhoopar, husband of Ms. Sunita Dhoopar
Mr. Aman Anand, estranged husband of Mr. Laxmi Anand
APPENDIX III - Mr. Volpe’s letter
APPENDIX IV – The allegations and the three
documents listing them
The affidavit of June 23, 2004 contained two allegations:
- That Mr. Obhrai asked for $40,000 to assist Mr. Anand and his family to immigrate to
Canada. It further alleges that two payments, the first in Indian rupees and the second in
Canadian dollars, were made by Mr. Anand to Mr. Obhrai, totalling about $36,000.
- That Mr. Anand was “forced” to leave Canada by Mr. Obhrai.
The letter from May 27, 2004 contained six allegations:
- That Mr. Obhrai allowed relatives to travel under his and his family's name on VIA Rail
from Edmonton to Toronto in the second week of July, 2000.
- That Mr. Obhrai received "truck loads" of free liquor from store owners in Calgary, in
exchange for helping their family members with immigration issues.
- That Mr. Obhrai helped Aman Anand and his family immigrate to Canada by falsely
claiming that Mr. Anand’s wife Laxmi Anand would be hired to work in a seniors’ home.
- That Mr. Obhrai's family members have trafficked in marijuana.
- That Mr. Obhrai employed Laxmi Anand in his constituency office, and that she was not
a permanent resident at the time.
- That Mr. Obhrai forced Mr. Anand to leave Canada by using threats and intimidation
after Mr. Anand converted to Christianity.
The letter from on June 18, 2004 contained one allegation:
- That Mrs. Anand’s work permit was arranged on false pretences with the assistance of
Mr. Obhrai. According to Mr. Anand, papers filed by Mr. Obhrai indicated that Laxmi
Anand had volunteered at a seniors’ home in Chittorgarh, where she lived before coming
to Canada, and that this claim is false.
Dr. Shapiro’s letter of August 4,
2005 launching the inquiry
Dr. Shapiro’s letter of September
23, 2005 informing the Speaker
APPENDIX VI – Sections 8, 9 and 14(1) of the
Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the
House of Commons