WATCH: An RCMP investigation has resulted in 31 charges against suspended senator Mike Duffy, the former Conservative and one-time TV news star. Mike Le Couteur reports.
OTTAWA — The RCMP laid 31 charges against suspended senator Mike Duffy on Thursday, including several counts of both fraud and breach of trust and one count of bribery of a judicial officer in the ongoing Senate expense scandal.
Duffy is expected in court on Sept. 16, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said during a press conference in Ottawa.
“The case was initiated as an investigation into expense claims relating to his declared primary residence in Prince Edward Island and secondary residence in Ottawa,” Michaud told reporters. “During the investigation of Sen. Duffy’s expense claims, a total of four investigational avenues were uncovered.”
- Residence: Filing living expense claims relating Duffy’s declared primary residence and secondary residence.
- Travel: Filing travel claims for travel that was personal or partisan in nature.
- Contracts: Awarding consulting contracts over a four-year period and then using part of the funds from those contracts for personal gain or expenses that circumvent Senate oversight.
- $90K cheque: The circumstances under which Duffy asked for and received approximately $90,000 from Nigel Wright for the purpose of repaying residency expense claims.
Michaud then laid out the long list of charges, which are as follows:
- Residence: One count each of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust. The total amount of the fraud in this instance is $90,000.
- Travel: Five counts of fraud under $5,000, four counts of fraud over $5,000 and nine counts of breach of trust. The total amount of these frauds exceeds $50,000.
- Contracts: Two counts of fraud over $5,000, two counts of fraud under $5,000 and four counts of breach of trust. The total amount of these frauds exceeds $60,000.
- $90K cheque: One count each of bribery of a judicial officer, frauds on the government and breach of trust.
Despite the news, Duffy’s lawyer said his client is content.
“Sen. Duffy is thankful the awful 16 months of waiting through a protracted and highly public police investigation is finally over, and we can move on to an impartial forum and fair hearing,” Ottawa lawyer Donald Bayne wrote in a statement issued late Wednesday night, before the RCMP made public their charges.
Bayne maintained his client is “innocent of any criminal wrong-doing,” and that “truth and innocence are on his side.”
WATCH: Global’s Ross Lord reports from outside Duffy’s PEI home — the home neighbours say they never saw him use.
As Global News reported, the RCMP has been close to laying charges against Duffy since April.
Opposition parties have consistently pointed fingers at Prime Minsiter Stephen Harper, asking what he knew about the now-infamous $90,000 cheque and when. Harper has consistently denied any prior knowledge of the deal between Wright and Duffy, saying he only found out once it became public.
“[We] congratulate the [RCMP] on the progress they have made,” Harper spokesman Jason Macdonald wrote in a emailed statement Thursday afternoon. “Those who break the rules must suffer the consequences. The conduct described in the numerous charges against Mr. Duffy is disgraceful.”
WATCH: Full statement from RCMP on Thursday, where they announced 31 charges against Duffy.
Still, the Liberals are convinced Harper is not as clean as he lets on.
“This entire issue is the result of the prime minister’s poor judgement,” Quebec MP Marc Garneau told reporters, pointing to Harper’s decision to appoint Duffy and “foster a culture” where passing a $90,000 cheque to a sitting senator seemed OK.
“Throughout this [Prime Minister's Office] ethics scandal, the prime minister has tried to evade responsibility,” Garneau said.
It has been eight months since an overwhelming majority of senators voted to suspend Duffy, along with colleagues Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin — all Harper appointees, and all accused of together collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in inappropriate expenses.
READ MORE: The Senate expense scandal file
Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau each separately criticized the process their colleagues took, deeming it biased, unfair and lacking due process.
Liberal Senator Mac Harb was also caught in the imbroglio, but resigned from the Senate before his colleagues could kick him out. He repaid $231,000 in ineligible housing and travel claims.
The Upper Chamber invited the RCMP in to investigate the cases. Of particular interest was the $90,000 cheque passed to Duffy from Wright — while acting as Harper’s chief of staff — so the senator could quietly repay what he was suspected of owing taxpayers.
Wright was also investigated, but in April the RCMP announced they wouldn’t lay any charges against him. Wright resigned after the $90,000 cheque was made public through the media.
For Harper’s part, he distanced himself from Wright, saying his former right-hand-man acted alone and without permission.
Similarly, Duffy’s lawyer says his client wanted no part of the deal.
“The evidence will show that Sen. Duffy did not want to participate in Nigel Wright’s and the [Prime Minister's Office] repayment scenario,” Bayne wrote in his statement.
Harb and Brazeau are facing criminal charges of fraud and breach of trust, while Wallin has not been charged.
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