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Wright-Duffy affair: Tories paid $10K in staffer’s legal fees

File photo - Nigel Wright, former chief of staff for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Conservative government has so far spent $10,500 of taxpayers’ money on legal fees for a former Prime Minister’s Office staffer in connection with the RCMP investigation in the Senate expense scandal.

David Van Hemmen, listed as the legal fees’ recipient and an executive assistant to Nigel Wright when the scandal unfolded, is now a Tory policy advisor.

The revelation of the payment to Ottawa law firm Carroll and Wallace was in a dump of documents tabled in the House of Commons this week, in response to an order paper question from NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus.

READ MORE: 12 highlights from the Wright-Duffy investigation

Angus asked government departments for information regarding ministerial offices using private legal counsel between 2003 and 2013.

In the Privy Council’s response, the Ottawa law firm and amount paid is listed as being used to pay legal fees for “RCMP investigation – payment by Nigel Wright to Senator Mike Duffy,” with Van Hemmen listed as the recipient.

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Wright resigned as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff amid the scandal, and Van Hemmen, after working for Wright throughout his negotiations with now-suspended senator Duffy, now works as a policy advisor for minister of state for finance Kevin Sorenson.

“This raises more questions about the Senate scandal and the role of the PMO,” Angus said Tuesday. “What did [Van Hemmen] know about the deal and why did PCO hire an external firm to give him legal counsel?”

The RCMP is investigating the deal at the heart of the Senate expense scandal – a $90,000 cheque from Wirght to the embattled senator Duffy – and has alleged Wright and Duffy committed breach of trust.

READ MORE: RCMP lay out case against Duffy on breach of trust, fraud

None of the allegations has been tested or proved in court.

A government official on Tuesday told Global News there is a long-standing government policy allowing ministers and their staff to receive legal assistance for lawsuits against them – and this will apply to other staffers and ministers involved in the investigation.

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