New court documents suggest troubled Toronto mayor Rob Ford may have offered $5,000 and a car to suspected drug dealers in exchange for a video that appears to show him smoking crack cocaine.
The information is contained in police surveillance recordings of alleged gang members who spoke about delivering drugs to Mr Ford and having pictures of him using drugs.
One alleged gang member is heard telling another that he rejected the offer for the tape and planned to meet the mayor and ask for “150” – $150,000.
On one wire tape on April 20, an alleged gang member is heard saying: “Rob Ford was smoking his rocks today” and that he would post a picture on Instagram.
Yesterday a smiling Mr Ford laughed and ignored questions as he left his office.
Mr Ford, who has become an international media sensation, acknowledged last month that he smoked crack in a “drunken stupor” about a year ago. He previously denied the existence of the video.
He has refused to resign as mayor of Canada’s largest city and financial capital, 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.
Mr Ford admitted that he smoked crack after police said they obtained a video that appeared to show him puffing on a crack pipe as part of an investigation into his friend Alexander Lisi.
The newly-released court documents say police heard on the wiretaps that Mr Ford had his phone stolen or lost it at a home they believe to be 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 did not get Mr 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.
City councilor Joe Mihevc said police need to examine the allegations that Ford tried to obtain the tape.
“The mayor can’t come out and say: ’I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’,” Mr Mihevc said. “This man needs help. He needs a lot of help.”
Toronto police chief Bill Blair would not comment on the newly-released documents. The wiretaps are evidence in the case against Lisi, who faces trial on drug and extortion charges. The mayor has not been charged.
“We conducted an investigation that needed to be done,” Mr Blair said.
Police were in the midst of a drug and weapons investigation involving supposed gang members when the mayor’s name surfaced on wiretaps in March and April.
That was about two months before US website Gawker and the Toronto Star first reported that alleged drug dealers were shopping around a video that appeared to show Mr Ford smoking crack cocaine.
The city council, lacking a way to oust Mr Ford from office unless he is convicted of a crime and jailed, voted overwhelmingly last month to slash the mayor’s office budget by 60% and allow his staff to join the deputy mayor.
Mr Ford says he has stopped drinking and adopted a healthier lifestyle and has agreed to appear on a Washington-based sports talk show to make NFL picks.