TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford says he is “surprised” that his occasional driver Alessandro Lisi was arrested on drug charges, calling Mr. Lisi a “friend” Wednesday.
Lisi, 35, was taken into custody Tuesday night at Richview Cleaners in the city’s west-end. He was charged with trafficking in marijuana, possession of marijuana, possession of proceeds of crime and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
“He’s a friend, he’s a good guy and I don’t throw my friends under the bus,” Ford said at an impromptu news conference at a gas station near his Etobicoke home.
He described Lisi as “on the straight and narrow.”
“Never once seen the guy drink. Never once seen the guy do drugs,” Ford said.
Ford also chastised reporters for seeking his response to the arrest.
“You know what bothers me? You guys are coming to my house — my front door. Don’t come to my front door again. That’s pretty low.”
Lisi was released on $5,000 bail Wednesday after a court appearance. He will be back in court Nov. 12.
According to a CityNews report, Lisi is on probation following a June conviction for uttering death threats. He is appealing the conviction.
Also arrested Tuesday evening was 47-year-old Jamshid Bahrami of Toronto. He is charged with possession of cocaine, trafficking in marijuana and conspiracy.
Bahrami was held on a prior warrant. He will be back in court Thursday.
Police executed search warrants at an Etobicoke dry cleaner’s and at a residence in the Dixon Road and Islington Avenue area Tuesday. Neighbours said Lisi lives at the residence with his parents.
Lisi was arrested during the raid at 250 Wincott Dr. in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation, police said Wednesday, declining further comment. Lisi’s lawyer Dominic Basile declined to comment on Wednesday morning.
According to a Toronto Star report, Lisi was one of two members of Ford’s entourage involved in an attempt to obtain an alleged video purportedly showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine shortly after the scandal broke in May.
A witness reportedly told the Star that Lisi had visited a group of known drug dealers and asked about the whereabouts of the people who made the alleged video.
Lisi’s lawyer confirmed at the time that his client was involved in a police investigation but would not give specifics.
Days after the story broke, Ford said he did not use cocaine, and could not comment on a video he did not see or that did not exist.
The Star has previously reported that the mayor is said to have told close confidants that he knew where the alleged video was and provided two addresses.
In June, police launched a series of raids targeting gangs and several addresses, including a Dixon Road apartment complex where the alleged video was reported to be located.
Police have refused to say if Ford was in any way part of the so-called Project Traveller investigation.
— With files from The Canadian Press and CityNews.ca