By Kenneth Jackson and Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Armed with thousands of emails written by Bruce Carson, the RCMP has stepped up its investigation into the activities of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former confidante, APTN National News has learned.
Investigators with the RCMP’s Commercial Crime Unit are actively probing the activities of the former political operative nicknamed “The Mechanic” regarding his dealings with federal Aboriginal Affairs officials, his relationship with an Ottawa-based water company and the role played by Carson’s fiancée, a former escort who went by the name of Leanna VIP.
Investigators already hold thousands of emails written by Carson along with documents on his laptop computer from his time as head of the Canada School of Energy and Environment, a $15 million think-tank created by the Conservative government. The emails would reveal the extent of the electronic networking world of a man who professed links to highest levels of federal political power and Alberta’s energy titans.
Carson, a former adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office, is under investigation for alleged illegal lobbying and influence peddling by three different agencies, including the RCMP, the Lobbying Commissioner and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
None of those investigations have reached their conclusions.
The Prime Minister’s Office requested the probes on March 16, 2011, following a meeting between the PMO’s director of communications and APTN National News reporters investigating links between Carson and an Ottawa-based water company seeking to sell filtration systems to First Nation reserves hard hit by contaminated water.
The water company, H2O Pros, also known as H2O Global Group, had signed a financial arrangement guaranteeing a share of profits to Carson’s fiancee, a former Ottawa escort, on the sales of water filtration systems to First Nation communities. Carson attempted to use his federal government connections to land meetings with Aboriginal Affairs officials to promote the company’s product.
Carson told APTN National News that he also planned to use his contacts with Minister John Duncan and Environment Minister Peter Kent to help the company sell its water filtration system to First Nations in deals worth potentially tens of millions of dollars.
Duncan and Kent both denied ever discussing the company with Carson.
RCMP investigators initially told APTN National News last March that they did not have an official complainant and that they were launching a preliminary review of the matter. In September, an RCMP spokesperson said the investigation had wrapped up. But then the federal police force retracted the statement, saying an official investigation had yet to be launched.
The probe, however, has since been taken to another level with two new officers from the same unit.
RCMP investigators have already obtained thousands of emails Carson wrote while he was director of the Canada School of Energy and Environment. When Carson stepped down from his post after the scandal broke, the think-tank immediately secured Carson’s laptop and its contents were made available to investigators from all three agencies.
This past February, investigators contacted Nicolas Kaszap, the former co-owner of H2O Pros, and approached him for an interview.
During an exclusive interview with APTN National News, Kaszap said he told the RCMP investigators he was present when the company signed its financial deal giving 20 per cent of gross profits from sales of water filtration systems to First Nations to Michele McPherson, the former Ottawa escort who had agreed to marry Carson. He told them Carson witnessed and initialed the contract. The amount was eventually lowered to 15 per cent in a subsequent contract.
Kaszap, who left the company over a business dispute, confirmed he met with the RCMP.
Kaszap said RCMP investigators issued their standard preamble for an interview that is part of an official investigation, telling him his statement would be recorded and could be used as evidence if the probe led to charges and an eventual trial.
Kaszap said that during the interview, the investigators focused on the initial contract, McPherson’s role, meetings with Aboriginal Affairs officials and the degree of Carson’s influence over the company. Kaszap said they had a number of emails in hand, which they referred to during the interview.
“They pretty much wanted to get to the bottom of (Carson’s) involvement and how much did he really know about the company,” said Kaszap.
Kaszap said investigators asked about a Sept. 14, 2010 meeting he attended involving Carson, water company president Patrick Hill and federal Aboriginal Affairs official Gail Mitchell, the director general of the community infrastructure branch, Garry Best, director of the engineering and technical services directorate, and another official.
Kaszap said that Carson tried to make it clear to the officials that he wasn’t part of the company and only there to guide them. Kaszap said he told investigators that the company made the pitch and Carson sat apart, at the end of the table. Carson did ask questions about funding and how the company could get it, Kaszap said.
Kaszap said he told investigators his involvement with Carson and company diminished after that meeting. On Oct. 23, 2010, he signed over his shares in the company and left for good.
Investigators also asked who Carson claimed to have connections with and whether Kaszap believe Carson could deliver deals for the water company.
Kaszap said he told investigators Carson claimed he knew people like Assembly of First Nation Chief Shawn Atleo, television handyman Mike Holmes, former cabinet minister Jim Prentice, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and Prime Minister Harper.
Kaszap said he told the RCMP he did believe Carson had high-powered connections and could help the company sell its water filters through the AFN and Aboriginal Affairs.
Carson told APTN last March during a series of interviews that he was in contact with Harper and several of his ministers on a regular basis.
“I thought they (RCMP) were trying to get as much information about Bruce as they could. I gave it to them as the best of my abilities. He said he could basically push a pilot project through and go from there basically,” said Kaszap. “I think they really want to confirm he did tell
Pat (Hill) and the company he would take care of everything and he would do everything for the company as long as Michele (McPherson) was taken care of in the end. That was really what his priority was all about.”
Kaszap’s version is corroborated by an email Carson sent to him on July 26, 2010, following a meeting with AFN officials.
“Thought we did as well as we could today–i (sic) told Michele and I will you because it means so much to her and I that we will get this done -the AFN need my help of getting rid of the Indian Act-so all of this will work together—i (sic) think 6 months from now we will be well on our way,” wrote Carson.
Kaszap said Carson repeated that message in person several times.
The RCMP also turned their questions to McPherson. Kaszap said they asked several times if she did any work for the company while he was there and whether she was paid.
Kaszap told them she was not paid and did not do any work.
The investigators were also interested in the contract between the company and McPherson that guaranteed her a share of the profit from sales of water filtration systems to First Nations.
According to the contract, McPherson was supposed to act as the agent of the company or face for all dealings with First Nations.
The RCMP wanted to know what qualifications McPherson had to perform this task.
Kaszap said she had none.
Kaszap said he told the investigators he thought the contract was a legal way for McPherson to get money for nothing.
The contract was signed in a Chateau Laurier meeting room on Aug. 31, 2010, two weeks before the first meeting with Aboriginal Affairs officials, Kaszap said he told the RCMP.
Kaszap said he told investigators he had misgivings, but signed it anyway, along with McPherson and Hill. He said Carson initialed the document as a witness.
The company was never able to sell one water filtration unit to a First Nations community.
“I think they wanted to have the terms of the contract, what was said and who was there,” said Kaszap, about his RCMP interview.
The investigators also wanted to know when and how many times Kaszap met Carson.
He said they met through McPherson in June 2010, and that he met Carson several times. He also told investigators McPherson asked him to pretend to be her brother for the initial meeting.
“What I felt from it was they were trying to get a timeline of when I met Bruce and what was involved in the conversations with him and what he said he could do, who he knew, who he spoke to and stuff like that,” said Kaszap.
Kaszap said investigators, referring to an email they had in hand, stated it was odd that Carson was being sent materials from Aboriginal Affairs officials and the AFN when such information would typically be sent directly to the company.
Kaszap said he “felt like I worked for him (Carson)” and once wrote Carson thanking him for keeping him in the loop.