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Casino case: Philanthropist Michael DeGroote paid Vito Rizzuto associate $500,000 amid casino dispute

Payment contradicts sworn testimony provided by DeGroote

Billionaire philanthropist Michael DeGroote paid a Vito Rizzuto associate $500,000 while engaged in a legal battle over a failed investment in a Caribbean casino venture, CBC News has learned.

New information obtained by CBC News contradicts evidence DeGroote swore under oath in which he denied any such payment was ever made when cross-examined about it in 2013.

DeGroote, who has the business and medical schools at Hamilton’s McMaster University named after him, has been lionized as a self-made billionaire philanthropist.

On Aug. 1, 2013, the business tycoon had $500,000 wire transferred through an intermediary to a man named Sasha Vujacic – also known as Sasha Visser or simply as Sasha.

As part of ongoing legal proceedings involving a dispute over his investment in a Dominican Republic casino, DeGroote was cross-examined on Oct. 25, 2013. During that examination DeGroote was asked several times about paying Sasha or sending him money. DeGroote repeatedly and categorically denied it, stating that he has “not paid anything directly or indirectly for Mr. Visser.”

CBC News, however, obtained an email sent by his longtime business associate Ivan Cairns where he writes that he transferred the $500,000 on behalf of DeGroote. “At the request of Mr. Michael DeGroote, we did, on Aug. 1, 2013, wire transfer $500,000 to an account at TD Canada Trust in the name of Brenda Kover,” writes Cairns. Kover was Sasha’s girlfriend at the time.

CBC News asked DeGroote several times about whether he perjured himself in his October 2013 testimony. He declined to answer the questions, but his lawyer sent a response stating “Michael DeGroote is 82 years old and very unwell.”

The lawyer added that years of pain and drug treatment from a stroke DeGroote suffered in 2001 “do at times significantly interfere with Mr. DeGroote’s cognitive abilities depending on the amount of emotional and physical stress that Mr. DeGroote is under at the time.”

Sasha had offered his services to help DeGroote in a nasty ongoing legal battle surrounding Dream Casinos.  DeGroote had invested over $100 million US in the operation and was suing his fellow investors, Antonio and Francesco Carbone, for alleged fraud.

The legal battle was protracted and bitter. A series of lawsuits and countersuits was filed in Ontario court between DeGroote and the Carbone brothers. While DeGroote was slowly making progress with his case in Toronto, business in the Dominican Republic was in tatters and he still had no answers to where his money was.

Desperate to get his money back, in May 2013 DeGroote held a meeting at his family luxury suite at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in downtown Toronto with two former Carbone associates who were offering their services to the billionaire.

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Sep 5, 2015

Category: DR News |

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Last updated October 24, 2016 at 6:05 PM
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