Alessandro (Sandro) Lisi is seen after being released on bail in Toronto on Wed., Oct. 2, 2013. Patrick Morrell/CBC
A prominent detective was asked to lead a probe involving a personal friend of Mayor Rob Ford, though Toronto police Chief Bill Blair won’t say much about the reason for his recruitment in a seemingly minor drug investigation.
On Tuesday evening, police arrested two Toronto men — Alessandro (Sandro) Lisi and Jamshid Bahrami — who were subsequently charged with drug-related offences.
Ford has described Lisi, who has occasionally served as a driver for the mayor, as a friend.
The mayor said he was "very surprised" and also "shocked" to learn that his friend was facing drug-related charges.
Det.-Sgt. Gary Giroux, a member of the homicide squad, led the investigation that resulted in charges against Lisi.
Giroux is a familiar face to many in Toronto. He is often seen at news conferences updating the public on ongoing homicide investigations.
Giroux was also among the officers who investigated the incidents that occurred on city streets during the G20 conference.
The city’s police chief confirmed Thursday that Giroux had been asked to lead the investigation involving Lisi. But he did not elaborate as to why one of his most senior officers was assigned.
"He’s a very good man, it was a job that needed to be done and he did it for us," said Blair.
Blair was asked if Ford was a part of the investigation. But the police chief replied that he would not comment on that.
CBC News has confirmed that Lisi’s arrest was a spinoff from Project Traveller, a police investigation that targeted west-end gangs.
Project Traveller culminated in a series of raids and arrests earlier this year.
Daniel Brown, a lawyer who represented one of the men charged during Project Traveller, said the fact that Giroux led the investigation involving Lisi was notable.
"I think you certainly don't expect to see an officer the calibre of Gary Giroux investigating a very small drug case, it says that there's probably something more to all of this than meets the eye," Brown said.
Since the spring, Ford has lived under an intensive media scrutiny following reports that someone had been shopping a video that allegedly showed the mayor using crack cocaine.
Ford has denied both using cocaine and the video’s existence.
Despite the mayor’s denials, the story of the alleged drug video drew wide media interest and the subject dominated the questions he faced from the press for weeks.
The 44-year-old Ford was elected as the mayor of Toronto three years ago. Prior to that, he served as a city councillor in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke.