Canada’s most notorious politician, who has approval ratings higher than President Obama, has had one of the investigations into his activities suspended by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), citing “a lack of critical evidence.” This has prompted the outspoken mayor to proclaim that he’s been “cleared.”
Speaking to CBC, Sgt. Pierre Chamberland said “Since there’s no new information or evidence that has been provided to the OPP … there is nothing for us to do at this point other than to wait and see whether or not any new information is put forward,”
However, Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash has announced that “Project Brazen 2 continues.” Project Brazen 2 is the surveillance operation revolving around Ford’s dealings with his friend Alexander Lisi who was charged with extortion in 2013 over the retrieval of the now infamous “Crack” tape that purports to show Ford doing crack cocaine. The case against Lisi alleges that he acted “as the mayor’s muscle around the Dixon Road community to suppress incriminating footage.”
Upon hearing the statement by OPP, Ford said “I knew I did nothing wrong… I just want to thank the OPP for doing a proper investigation.”
A split between two law enforcement departments and how they handle a case is not unusual, according to Kash Heed, a 31-year veteran officer and former police chief of Vancouver — they just don’t usually handle it in public. “When these disputes take place, it’s all behind closed doors, behind meeting rooms,” Heed said. “You’ve got to wonder as to why this has become so public?”
In his statement to CBC, Pugash took a shot at the professional credibility of the OPP’s investigation saying, “I have to tell you that we have not been informed that the OPP has withdrawn from this, and the message they put out is rather imprecise in describing what they were doing.”
While Toronto police are talking up the prospects of their case against Ford, numerous members of the Canadian legal community are siding with the OPP. While Ford may have behaved in a way that should have wrecked any chance of him escaping justice, the police actually have very little evidence of wrong doing for what he has been investigated over.
Anthony Moustacalis, who is president of the Criminal Lawyers Association and a former Crown attorney in Toronto, said “The problem with criminal law is, to prove what somebody’s doing, you have to say what they’re doing, see what they’re doing, or have it expressed in their writing.”
According to Michael Lacy, a Toronto criminal lawyer, “From the OPP perspective, if they were going to include reasonable or probable grounds to lay charges, they wanted to see some evidentiary link between whatever Lisi was alleged to have done and Rob Ford directly, rather than just some speculative inference.”
Heed put it more bluntly: “Unless they get a smoking gun-type witness here that may link mayor Ford with the allegations, the investigation is virtually at a standstill and it won’t go any further.”
Contrary to his claim to have been “cleared,” Ford is not out of the woods yet. There is still the small matter of the litany of other infractions that he has committed, including the illegal acts contained in the “crack snorting” video. Because there is no statute of limitations regarding extortion cases, if the Toronto investigation into Alexander Lisi throws up anymore videos, Ford could find himself in trouble.
The case against Ford has involved multiple avenues of investigation, including the seizure of telephone records, documents from Apple in California, as well as undercover surveillance. It was in the course of the surveillance operation that Ford came to international attention and, despite defending him, emerged as a new challenger for Justin Bieber’s title of “Most Out of Control Canadian.”