A massive police operation targeting suspected drug and gun traffickers was overshadowed Thursday by questions about a possible link between the early-morning raids in Toronto and Mayor Rob Ford's alleged crack cocaine video.
Locations raided around the Greater Toronto Area included an apartment complex where reports have said an alleged video that appears to show Ford smoking crack cocaine was located.
Ford has said publicly that he does not use crack cocaine and the video does not exist.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair called the raids significant, saying they have cut off a pipeline of guns from the United States into Canada, disrupted alleged gang activity and made dozens of arrests. The investigation began with a series of violent crimes last summer, he said.
``In size there have been bigger (raids), but in importance this ranks up there with, I think, some of the most important work that we do,'' Blair said.
But a news conference Blair held to discuss the investigation was dominated by questions about the mayor. Blair would not say if there was any connection to Ford.
"I am not able to disclose any of the investigative methodologies that were employed in this case or to disclose any of the evidence that has (been) obtained,'' he said. ``There is an appropriate place for that evidence to be made public and it is through a court of law.''
Ford has said publicly that he does not smoke crack cocaine and the video does not exist, and told reporters Thursday that he has nothing to hide. He took questions from reporters several times and by afternoon he was getting fed up.
``I've answered so many questions, I don't know if you guys can't get it through your thick skulls,'' he said. ``Seriously? I've already answered all these questions. I have nothing to do with this. I congratulate the police on doing their work. That's it.''
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said it was unlikely the police raids had anything to do with the mayor.
``The police say they were planned months ago, and it's an extensive raid, it's not just to do with that set of buildings in Etobicoke, it's throughout the GTA, involving other police forces,'' he said.
``Some media want to tie him to anything that goes on and that's really unfortunate.''
The raids began shortly after 5 a.m, and involved police from multiple jurisdictions including Peel, York, Halton, Barrie, Guelph, the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police.
Windsor police say multiple warrants were also executed around that city, involving several police agencies assisting with a Toronto police investigation.