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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford calls man arrested on drug charges 'a friend'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

TORONTO - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said Wednesday he's surprised and shocked one of his friends has been arrested and charged with four drug offences in the city's west end.

Toronto police say Alexander Lisi, 35, is one of two men arrested Tuesday after a search warrant was executed in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation.

Lisi is charged with trafficking in marijuana, possession of proceeds of crime, possession of marijuana and conspiracy to commit the indictable offence of drug trafficking.

Ford defended his friend in an impromptu news conference at a gas station near his west-end home, saying Lisi is "(on the) straight and narrow" and he's never seen him drink or do drugs.

"He's a friend, he's a good guy and I don't throw my friends under the bus," he said.

He refused to comment further on Lisi's arrest, saying the matter is before the courts.

Lisi appeared in court Wednesday at Toronto's Old City Hall and was granted $5,000 bail. He has another court appearance Nov. 12.

Media reports have described Lisi as a close friend and occasional driver for the mayor.

After Lisi was released on bail he ran away from reporters asking about his relationship to the mayor. He did not answer questions.

The Toronto Star reported earlier this year that Lisi was looking for a video that allegedly showed Ford using crack cocaine. Ford has said he does not use crack cocaine and that the alleged video does not exist.

The allegation surfaced in May 16 when reporters from the Star and the U.S. website Gawker reported they were shown the video.

In connection with Tuesday's investigation, another man, Jamshid Bahrami, 47, of Toronto, is charged with possession of cocaine, three counts of trafficking in marijuana and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.

He was also granted $5,000 bail.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/131002/toronto-mayor-rob-ford-calls-man-arrested-drug-charges-frien