The National Post revealed last Friday that federal Conservative and BC Liberal campaigner Rajinder Singh "Raj" Bhela, who has close ties with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, has been accused of fraud in a $500,000 cheque kiting scheme. Immediately after the story, which also quotes DESIBUZZCanada Founder-Editor R. Paul Dhillon, the Conservatives cut ties with Scheer's B.C. South Asian community organizer Bhela but Scheer has not come out and commented on his close relationship with Bhela while he continues to seek clarification on the Jaspal Athwal invite during PM Justin Trudeau's India visit. It looks like both the governing Liberals and the Opposition has plenty of "Desi" black sheep in their circles to keep them tainted.
SURREY – The National Post revealed last Friday that federal Conservative and BC Liberal campaigner Rajinder Singh "Raj" Bhela, who has close ties with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, has been accused of fraud in a $500,000 cheque kiting scheme.
Immediately after the story appeared last Friday, which also quotes DESIBUZZCanada Founder-Editor R. Paul Dhillon, the Conservatives cut ties with Scheer's B.C. South Asian community organizer Bhela but Scheer has not come out and commented on his close relationship with Bhela while he continues to seek clarification on the Jaspal Athwal invite during PM Justin Trudeau's India visit.
It looks like both the governing Liberals and the Opposition has plenty of "Desi" black sheep in their circles to keep them tainted.
The Post reported that "Businessman Raj Bhela has been photographed frequently with Andrew Scheer, and on social media has described the Conservative leader as his “best friend.” In an interview with an Indo-Canadian newspaper in late 2016, Scheer said he was “excited that Raj has taken a leadership role in my campaign.”
However, in a story written by Doug Quan, it reported that court records show that last year TD Bank accused Bhela and his business associates of being part of a fraudulent $500,000 cheque “kiting” scheme, a civil case which resulted in a default judgment in favour of the plaintiffs. Bhela and his associates have also been named in multiple civil suits involving mortgage defaults in the millions.
Bhela had earlier told the Post in an email that he’d had an “informal role as a liaison to the South Asian community.” He said the allegation of cheque fraud was a “mischaracterization” and that the case and the other civil actions against him were resolved amicably.
In late 2016, The LINK newspaper reported that “well-known Indo-Canadian political mover-shaker Raj Bhela” had taken on a role as South Asian outreach coordinator for Scheer’s leadership campaign.
“I look forward to working with him to deepen my connection to B.C.’s vibrant and important South Asian community,” Scheer was quoted as saying at the time.
Following Scheer’s victory, the Link reported that Bhela had been given an expanded role as an advisor to the Conservative Party campaign manager on the South Asian community and published an image of his new business card, featuring the Conservative Party’s logo and contact information that included the address of the party’s Ottawa headquarters.
“I’m excited to be part of (the) Conservative Party team and will continue the good work that got Andrew Scheer elected as our leader and now we must put him in the Prime Minister’s chair,” he said at the time.
Bhela was “one of the big organizers” in the South Asian community, Paul R. Dhillon, the Link’s editor, told the Post. “They gave him that (role) for his good work.”
Jake Enwright, Scheer’s director of media relations, told the Post that Bhela took on the position after Scheer’s leadership victory and “in his volunteer capacity, has on occasion provided advice (on community outreach).”
Conservative Party spokesman Cory Hann said the issuance of business cards to volunteers is pretty common. “It’s a template that gets provided to any volunteer that wishes to have a card.”
Enwright also confirmed that Bhela has served as Scheer’s personal driver when attending events in the Vancouver area. An itinerary from last November showed that Bhela was to chauffeur Scheer, his executive assistant and photographer to a luncheon with the South Asian business community at a banquet hall in Surrey, B.C.
At the same time Bhela’s interaction with the party was deepening, so, too, were his legal troubles.
In February 2017, TD Bank filed a civil claim alleging that Bhela and his business associates had obtained three bank drafts totalling $500,000 as part of a cheque-kiting scheme, the Post reported.
Cheque kiting, the court records state, occurs when a cheque is issued from an account whose balance is insufficient to cover it. Cheques and registered funds are subsequently “circulated from one bank to another and from one account to another, in a manner that maintains fictitious bank balances in some accounts while depositing the very same amounts in other accounts.”
Records show that TD Bank obtained default judgments — typically issued when parties have not responded — against Bhela and his associates and were awarded $500,000 in damages, plus costs.
Bhela said this week the bank’s claims were “in essence a mischaracterization” and the matter was “resolved amicably within a couple of days of the matter first coming to my attention and the case is over.”
Court records show that Bhela and other associates or numbered companies have also been the subject of multiple court orders in recent years related to mortgage defaults, with Bhela sometimes listed as the guarantor. The unpaid debts range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars, the Post reported.
Bhela did not address those cases in his email to the Post.
In another civil action in 2016, a Surrey-based building supplier claimed that a general contracting company operated by Bhela and his partners owed $89,000 in unpaid invoices. The court issued a judgment in favour of the plaintiffs for the money owed plus $57,000 interest.
A subsequent claim in 2017 from the building supplier alleged that while $25,000 had been paid back, Bhela and his partners conspired to prevent the company from collecting the remaining money.
Bhela told the Post the dispute “as it related to me was resolved amicably back in 2016.”