The biggest backer of Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s re-election campaign has been accused in court of abusing his children.
But Stewart’s Forward Together party has not responded to requests for comment about the party’s relationship with its most-important fundraiser.
In B.C. Supreme Court on Sept. 27, a judge heard allegations from Francesco Aquilini’s estranged wife Tali’ah that the owner of the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena had a history of physically and mentally abusing his children.
Tali’ah alleges that her former husband, with whom she reached a divorce settlement in 2013, stopped making child support payments a year ago. She also claimed that the three children, now in their 20s and studying in university, want no contact with their father.
The case prompted the National Hockey League to issue a statement, saying that it had contacted Aquilini and his lawyers. “Mr. Aquilini has advised us that he categorically denies the allegations. We plan to continue to monitor the situation and, if necessary, will respond as we learn more as events unfold.”
A statement on Francesco Aquilini’s behalf said that he has and will continue to meet legal obligations, “but he has concerns about the veracity of the information provided in support of financial demands.
“It is unfortunate that allegations without merit are brought forward for a collateral purpose. He will have nothing further to say at this time as the matter is before the courts.”
Evidence of the rift in the public domain includes a 2019 profile on an American university website for one of the couple’s children, who identified the first names of her siblings and mother, but omitted her father’s name.
The Forward Together spreadsheet of fundraising “captains” found by Stanley Q. Woodvine of the Georgia Straight says Aquilini helped raise $64,350 in 2022 donations for Stewart’s re-election, with a goal of $110,000. The amount raised and the goal are far and away higher than any of the other prominent names from the city’s real estate industry in the document.
In Forward Together’s Aug. 8-released fundraising list, Stewart reported receiving almost $14,000 in donations from Aquilini family members in the last two years.
The list shows 2021 donations from brothers Francesco ($1,238.07) and Roberto Aquilini ($1,239). Francesco, Roberto and father Luigi each gave $1,250 in 2022.
Jim Chu, the former Vancouver Police chief now working as a vice-president of Aquilini Investment Group, is on the list for $1,239 in 2021 and $1,250 in 2022. Former AIG president David Negrin, now the top executive at MST Development, donated $1,239 to Stewart in 2021.
Francesco Aquilini publicly threw his support behind Stewart’s re-election campaign, when he hosted an April 25 fundraiser at the Captain’s Room in Rogers Arena. The event was officially called the Mayor’s Engagement Lunch. Stewart advertised tickets for the event at $600, $900 and $1,250.
AIG and MST Development Corp., the Musqueam-Squamish-Tsleil-Waututh real estate company, plan to redevelop the former B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch site on East Broadway. AIG, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh co-own the Willingdon Lands in Burnaby. Negrin advised MST on its purchase of the province’s Jericho Lands, after MST combined with Canada Lands Co. to acquire the federal parcel and two other federal properties.
Squamish Nation spokesman Marc Riddell has not responded for comment about the allegations against Aquilini.
The three First Nations have proposed an athletes’ village be built at the Jericho Lands if the Canadian Olympic Committee’s bid for to bring the Olympics back to Vancouver wins next year. The proposed venues include Rogers Arena, site of the 2010 men’s and women’s hockey gold medal games.
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