OTTAWA - Police have recovered a video reportedly showing Toronto's embattled mayor, Rob Ford, smoking crack cocaine, the Canadian city's police chief announced Thursday.
"The mayor does appear in that video," Chief Bill Blair told a news conference on an extortion investigation, ending months of speculation after the mayor denied illicit drug use.
The 90-second clip had caused an uproar after Canada's largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, and US online gossip website Gawker reported its existence in May.
The Star said it had been approached by drug dealers looking to sell the video, allegedly shot using a cellphone by a person who claimed to have supplied Ford with the drug.
The paper said it viewed the video but declined to pay for it.
Gawker had also said that it had seen the footage, which reportedly showed a man resembling Ford leaning back in a chair in a room, inhaling from what appeared to be a glass crack pipe.
But later, after raising more than US$200,000 (S$250,000) in an online campaign to enable it to buy the video, Gawker said it was told by its unnamed source that the video was "gone."
Blair said forensic technicians recovered the video and other data from a hard drive seized mid-June, after it had been deleted.
"That file contains video images which appear to be those images which were previously reported in the press," he said, adding that the video did not appear to have been doctored.
Ford's friend and occasional driver, Alexander Sandro Lisi, who already faces drug charges, was again arrested and charged with extortion in the case.
It was not made clear who was the target of the alleged extortion.
Blair said Ford has not been interviewed by police.
He added that criminal charges against Ford were not warranted based on the video, but noted that prosecutors may lay more charges in the case.
Heavily-redacted court documents released earlier detailed months of police surveillance of Ford meeting with Lisi at gas stations, a city park and outside Lisi's home, which is just around the corner from apartments targeted by police in a drug raid.
Authorities used cameras mounted on telephone poles, tracking devices on cars, listening devices and even a small airplane flying low over a Toronto suburb where Ford lives.
Ford initially dismissed drug use allegations as "ridiculous," but his refusal to explain himself fully fuelled speculation, as he jousted with journalists - calling them "maggots" - and assailed his critics.
At one point, Ford even suggested that the video had never existed.
The controversy lead to six of Ford's key staffers, including his chief of staff, leaving the mayor's office suddenly in the spring.
The premier of Ontario at one point warned that she might remove Ford from office, while allies including Canada's finance minister appeared to distance themselves from Ford, despite coveting his so-called "Ford Nation" of supporters based in Toronto's suburbs.
Ford could not be reached for comment on the latest revelations.
As he left his home for work in the morning, he pushed back a crush of journalists waiting at the edge of his driveway.
Pressed for a reaction, Blair said: "As a citizen of Toronto I am disappointed."