THE beleaguered mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, has denied allegations in newly released court documents that he offered $5,000 (£2,900) and a car to suspected drug dealers in exchange for a video that appears to show him smoking crack.
Ford addressed the issue during an appearance yesterday on a Canadian radio show called The Sports Junkies.
“Number one that’s an outright lie and number two you can talk to my lawyers about it, but I’m here to talk about football guys,” he said.
The mayor of Canada’s largest city has been embroiled in scandal since reports of the video first emerged in May. Ford at first denied the existence of the video. When police announced in October they had obtained a copy, Ford admitted he had smoked a crack pipe in a “drunken stupor” probably a year ago.
The court documents released late on Wednesday detail police wiretaps of alleged gang members who spoke about delivering drugs to Ford and having pictures of him using drugs. One suspect is heard telling another that he rejected the offer for the video and planned to meet the mayor and ask for “150,” meaning $150,000.
The wiretaps are evidence in the case against Ford’s friend Alexander Lisi, who faces trial on drug and extortion charges. Ford has not been charged.
He has refused to resign, despite mounting pressure after a string of incidents that have embarrassed Canadians, from public drunkenness to appearing in another video that showed him threatening “murder” in an incoherent rant. Toronto’s city council has stripped him of most of his powers.
Deputy mayor Norm Kelly, who has assumed many of Ford’s powers, said he is “numb” to the new allegations in the court documents. Mr Kelly repeated that Ford should seek help and take a leave of absence. Given that Ford has lost many of his powers, the latest allegations should have no impact on the running of the city, he said.
On a wiretap dated 20 April, an alleged gangster is heard saying, “Rob Ford was smoking his rocks today” and that he would post a picture on Instagram. On another wiretap, one man says he has many pictures of Ford “doing the hezza,” slang for heroin. Another man suggests the pictures would be worth a lot, the document says.
The court documents also say police heard on the wiretaps that Ford had his phone stolen or lost it at a crack house and that Lisi was trying to get it back.
Police say they overheard that Lisi threatened to “put the heat on” the gang if he didn’t get Ford’s phone back and that the alleged gang members said they would not tolerate Lisi’s threats because they had a picture of Ford “on a pipe,” which police believed meant a crack pipe. Police say Lisi gave the men marijuana in exchange for the return of the mayor’s phone.
Dennis Morris, Ford’s lawyer, said the wiretaps were snippets of the conversations of alleged gangsters who are talking among themselves and said there was nothing to address.
Police were in the middle of a drug and weapons investigation involving alleged members of the city’s Dixon Bloods gang when the mayor’s name surfaced on wiretaps in March and April. Police didn’t open an investigation into Ford and Lisi until May, when US website Gawker and the Toronto Star reported that alleged drug dealers were shopping around the crack video.