Helena Guergis is being investigated by the RCMP over allegations of cocaine use and consorting with prostitutes, CTV News reported Wednesday night.
Private investigator Derek Snowdy says Ms. Guergis was removed from cabinet and kicked out of the Conservative caucus after he informed a Tory party lawyer of those allegations, according to a CTV report.
Mr. Snowdy was conducting a 19-month probe into the affairs of Nazim Gillani and his business partner, former CFL player Mike Mihelic, when he learned of purported illicit behaviour by Ms. Guergis and her husband, former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer.
Both Mr. Gillani and Mr. Mihelic are facing fraud charges on an unrelated matter.
Mr. Gilliani boasted that he had cellphone photos of Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer "partying" with cocaine and high-priced hookers, Mr. Snowdy said.
"I was concerned about blackmail," he said.
It has not been confirmed that Mr. Gillani said those comments or that he had the cellphone photos, but it was those allegations that caused Harper to act.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister refused to comment on specific details of Mr. Snowdy's information.
"We received serious and credible second hand allegations from a third party. We referred the matter to the RCMP," said Dimitri Soudas.
According to sources, the Conservative Party lawyer contacted by the private investigator is Arthur Hamilton, a partner with the Bay Street firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, who has represented the Conservative Party on such high-profile cases as the Gomery inquiry and a series of disputes with Elections Canada.
Sources said that as soon as Mr. Hamilton was alerted, he placed a call to the Prime Minister's Office to tell Mr. Harper what the investigator had found. Mr. Harper described the information on Wednesday as "serious allegations about the former minister's comportment."
Mr. Harper determined the information to be "credible," and informed Ms. Guergis that he had referred the file to the RCMP and the Ethics Commissioner. Ms. Guergis promptly resigned as minister of state for the status of women and left the Conservative caucus to sit as an independent MP.
What happened next is a subject of debate, as Ms. Guergis's lawyer said she was kept in the dark as to the exact nature of the allegations.
"So far, she hasn't been told what it is she is supposed to respond to," lawyer Howard Rubel said in an interview, rejecting contrary statements from the PMO. "She wants to confront whatever this is, but it's pretty difficult to respond to something when you haven't been told what it is."
But Mr. Harper said he felt the allegations were so touchy that he got Mr. Hamilton to explain them to Ms. Guergis.
"It's not my role to repeat the allegations or make comments on things that I don't have any direct knowledge," Mr. Harper told reporters. "It's a legal question and it's appropriate for the lawyer to give the details."
Mr. Hamilton declined to comment.
The opposition parties have now banded together to try to get more information on the controversy, launching a committee probe into allegations of unregistered lobbying involving environmental projects pushed by Mr. Jaffer and his business associates. In addition to Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer, the MPs indicated they are prepared to summon Mr. Gillani and former CFLer Mike Mihelic, two Toronto businessmen who explored potential ventures with Mr. Jaffer.
While Mr. Harper is trying to say as little as possible on the controversy, the opposition used his first appearance of the week in Question Period to press for more details.
"Now we learn that the Prime Minister referred a matter to the RCMP based on a report from Magnum, P.I.," NDP Leader Jack Layton said, referring to the 1980s television hit starring Tom Selleck as a private investigator. "Tell us what the private eye told him. At least give us a hint as to why the RCMP is involved."
Bloc Québécois MP Carole Freeman pointed to drug-related allegations that have been raised in the media, saying it could have been used in an extortion campaign against Ms. Guergis.
"The revelations that were brought to the Prime Minister involve blackmail, the trafficking and the use of drugs. Can the government tell us the information that was provided to the RCMP?" she asked.
In a statement to the media, Ms. Guergis denounced "rumours gone amok," which her lawyer refused to address.
"We're not going to dignify the type of rampant rumour and speculation that is out there, from undisclosed sources, anonymous reports, private investigators," Mr. Rubel said.
He added that he was retained by Ms. Guergis to "facilitate her co-operation with the RCMP," and that he has spoken to an officer on the file.
The Conservative caucus met Wednesday for its first closed-door meeting since Ms. Guergis's departure, but MPs were not provided with any details on the mystery allegations.
A spokesman for Mr. Gillani, Brian Kilgore, said Wednesday night that "Mr. Gillani doesn't know Mr. Snowdy."