By Kenneth Jackson and Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The RCMP is investigating claims Bruce Carson received a $5,000 cheque to sponsor a table at the Assembly of First Nations Christmas party from the Ottawa water company he was promoting to federal officials in hopes of landing First Nation water deals, APTN National News has learned.
Patrick Hill, owner of H2O Pros, also known as H2O Global Group, said he had the cheque made out at the request of Carson to pay for a portion of the $15,000 cost to sponsor a table at the Assembly of First Nations Christmas banquet on Dec. 16, 2010.
APTN National News has confirmed a cheque was made out by the H2O Pros’ bookkeeper but it remains unclear what name was put on the cheque. It also remains unclear whether the cheque was ever cashed.
Hill said the Calgary-based Canada School of Energy and Environment (CSEE), which Carson headed, was supposed to pay for the balance of the sponsorship cost.
Hill’s company logo was placed next to CSEE’s as co-sponsors of the table at the December event which was held at the Lac Leamy Casino in Gatineau, Que., located across the Ottawa River from Ottawa.
“I gave it to (Carson),that is correct. That money was supposed to be for that table which was supposed to be $15,000. You can check the bank accounts. I have nothing to hide,” said Hill.
Hill’s bank records for November 2010 obtained by APTN National News, show that two $5,000 cheques were withdrawn from his account Nov. 22, 2010 and another Dec. 17, a day after the AFN event.
Hill never provided bank records, however APTN had received copies during its initial investigation last February.
APTN National News confirmed that the CSEE never received any $5,000 deposit in relation to the sponsorship.
The AFN sent an invoice last April looking for payment for the sponsorship, but after Carson left the school under the cloud of scandal, the CSEE board decided not to pay it. The think-tank also pulled its involvement from an AFN-lead mining and energy conference which was eventually held in Niagara Falls, Ont., last year, AFN sources confirmed.
Carson, a former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is currently under investigation by the RCMP, the Lobbying Commissioner and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for alleged illegal lobbying and influence peddling. None of those investigations have reached their conclusion.
The lobbying investigation is ongoing, while the ethics investigation is currently suspended.
The OPP is investigating Hill’s company, which closed its doors last June, for allegedly defrauding clients.
The subject of the cheque came up when the RCMP interviewed Nicholas Kaszap, who was a co-owner of H2O Pros until Kaszap left the company in October of 2010 over differences with Hill.
The OPP, while conducting a separate investigation into Hill and H20 Pros only, is after the company’s financial records.
A source at the centre of the investigation told APTN National News “every official in town” is after those records.
APTN National News attempted to contact Carson Thursday morning, texting and calling his cell phone, which still uses the same 403 Calgary area-code number he answered while still with the CSEE.
APTN National News has confirmed that the lobbying and ethics investigations have moved beyond Carson’s dealings with the water company to his time as head of the CSEE, which received $15 million in federal funding.
Investigators with both agencies have obtained Carson’s emails and documents from his lap top from the think-tank, which was secured after he left.
Investigators have also contacted the CSEE and former employees seeking information about Carson’s activities.
In particular, the Lobbying Commissioner’s investigator has requested Carson’s expense account from the school.
Carson still owes CSEE about $15,000. It was reported late last year Carson spent more than $28,000 in the month before he left, but APTN National News has learned the expenses covered about a two-year-long period.
The school is making no efforts to retrieve the money, nor would they grant APTN an interview.
Harper requested the probes on March 16, 2011, following a meeting between the Prime Minister’s Office’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.
Hill signed a deal with Carson’s fiancee, Michele McPherson, a former escort, giving her a share of the profits from the sale of water filtration systems to First Nation communities. Hill initially agreed to give McPherson 20 per cent of gross sales and later signed an additional contract lowering the cut to 15 per cent.