One mayor, one murder victim, one reputed crack house, one highly sought video, one possible tape-stashing apartment unit: Connect the dots.
Project Traveller — which was never about Rob Ford but tripped over him in its year-long investigative odyssey towards massive pre-dawn drug and gun raids Thursday — has turned up the glare on some very dark corners of the mayor’s helter-skelter life.
A mayor who insists he is not a crack addict — and there’s no indication of habitual use, nor much likelihood that DNA traces could be obtained from hair samples, given the buzz cut that Ford suddenly adopted a few weeks ago, after Crackgate exploded in the media.
MORE ON THESTAR.COM:
Dixon Road raids net guns and cash, leaves gang ‘significantly downgraded,’ Toronto police say
Dixon Road raids: Guns-and-gangs bail hearings proceeding smoothly
Councillors call for answers as Ford, Blair, Wynne remain tight-lipped
Here’s how the raids went down
A mayor who was photographed in the jolly company of a trio of men — Anthony Smith, slain in March; Muhammad Khattak, wounded in the same shooting and arrested in Thursday’s raids; Monir Kassam, also arrested in that operation.
A mayor who posed for that picture outside a Windsor Rd. home — Ford has never denied it, merely noted that he has his photo taken with loads of folks — that has been the subject of numerous complaints about drug activity from neighbours. What in the world was Ford doing there? He’s never said.
That Windsor Rd. address, the Star has learned, was included on search warrants sworn out by police before the multi-jurisdiction raids were launched in Toronto, Windsor (the city) and Edmonton. Police never went to the house on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean they hadn’t served the warrant earlier. At least one other address listed in the warrants was visited by police last Sunday — they simply knocked on the door rather than kicked in the door.
A mayor who, as the Star had earlier been told by sources, blurted out to some members of his inner circle staff that he knew where the videotape — of Ford seeming to be sucking on a crack pipe — could be located, the same videotape which Ford publicly claims does not exist. According to an individual privy to that discussion, Ford gave a specific address: 320 Dixon Rd, either unit 1703 or 1701.
The 320 Dixon Rd. address, unit 1703, was included on the police search warrants. Its front door is not damaged and residents on that floor say they saw no police activity on Thursday.
On Friday, the mayor had nothing to say about it, studiously ignoring questions flung in his direction by reporters after he spoke at a Toronto Real Estate Board luncheon. Understandable, actually, the mum-game. Not talking, except in the controlled environment of his Sunday afternoon radio show with ‘bro Doug, has been working for the mayor so far, at least by his apparent reckoning.
Chief Bill Blair did a lot of talking at his press conference, Thursday, though what he didn’t say left a pungent odour. While the media session was called to publicize successful culmination of the year-long Project Traveller operation — disrupting a sophisticated criminal enterprise that included robberies, murder and attempted murder, drug and gun trafficking — reporters hounded the chief with questions about where, how and if the investigation had transected with the crack video scandal, a tape that has been seen only by two Star reporters and the editor of U.S.-based website Gawker.
Blair did not pluck the mayor out of the muck, refusing to reveal whether police had scooped up the tape in their investigation or any other evidence linking Ford with drug dealers. But several media organizations, including the Star, have discovered that investigators became aware of the tape’s existence at some point before the news was broken by the Star and Gawker.
In the National Post Friday, columnist Christie Blatchford reported that when Ford’s name first surfaced in wiretapped conversations, Blair told senior commanders he would not lie about it. This comment has been independently confirmed by the Star.
Blair hasn’t lied. He steadfastly asserts any information collected by police will come out in court during the trials of those charged in Project Traveller. There has been no objection from the chief’s office over inferences drawn by the media in coverage of the press conference.
Ford was not briefed on the raids either before or after they occurred. Blair made it clear he reports to the police board, not the mayor. And the board has taken a hands-off approach to the Ford controversy because the mayor certainly doesn’t answer to them.
Board chair Alok Mukherjee told the Star Friday that Blair has yet to brief them about Project Traveller, nor could the board direct the chief to be more forthcoming about evidence obtained.
“Under the Police Services Act, the board is prevented from any involvement in what is called operational matters, including directing the chief or any member of the police service regarding any day-to-day investigation. By law, the board is prevented from directing the chief and the chief is prevented from seeking directions from the board. It’s a very water-tight separation.”
However, the chief has been summoned to meet with the police services board next week.
“I have asked him to provide the board with a briefing on Project Traveller as well as the comments he made during his press conference. I assume the chief will comply with that,” Mukherjee says.
Only after the operation has concluded can the board disclose any information that the chief has provided. But Blair has made it clear that Project Traveller is still ongoing with no wrap-up date in sight.
Mukherjee points to the accounting the board demanded of former police chief Julian Fantino (and, later, Blair) about an investigation of corruption against members of the Central Field Command’s drug squad. “After the fact, the board did ask pretty detailed questions. There was a fair bit that the board made public.”
Would the board be similarly divulgent if it learns that Ford was implicated — however peripherally — in Project Traveller?
“That would be the type of advice the board would seek from its legal counsel,” says Mukherjee.
What the board can’t do is call Ford to address the allegations. “No, we absolutely do not have that authority.”
Mukherjee adds: “As a resident of this city, I very much hope that these matters can be resolved soon because I do understand the public concern that’s been expressed.”
At their Friday follow-up Project Traveller press conference — 43 individuals arrested in the operation, more than 300 charges laid — police displayed a trove of nasty firearms that had been seized: military-style rifles, semi-automatics, handguns.
No faxing fast cash advance gets you cash fast and easily.