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Senate ethics officer suspends probe of Duffy affair

Above: Justin Trudeau questioned the appointment of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin to senate seats, while Harper attacked the Liberals for not being more transparent with senate expenses.

The Senate ethics officer is suspending her investigation into Nigel Wright’s $90,000 payment to Sen. Mike Duffy because the upper chamber has referred the matter to the RCMP.

Spokeswoman Louise Dalphy said in an email Senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard will not comment further at this time.

The Senate ethics officer was one of two bodies looking into the payment by Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson is still looking into the matter, her office confirmed.

Timeline: Key dates in the evolution of the Senate expense-claim controversy

“The Commissioner has not received any confirmation that another body is investigating Mr. Wright and therefore has not suspended her examination,” said spokeswoman Jocelyne Brisebois in an email.

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Last week, a Senate committee voted to send Duffy’s expenses to the RCMP. Harper has denied knowing about or authorizing Wright’s payment. He has since resigned.

Controversy over the housing allowance claims of three senators – former Conservatives Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau and former Liberal Mac Harb – has been swirling since last fall. Their claims were subjected to an external audit.

An external audit of Sen. Pamela Wallin’s travel expenses is still ongoing.

Read more: Sen. Marjory LeBreton calling for audit of all Senate expenses

The Duffy affair has proven most explosive thus far. It was revealed last month that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, personally gave Duffy $90,000 so that the senator could reimburse his improperly claimed expenses.

Wright resigned shortly after his involvement was revealed. The transaction is now under investigation by the ethics commissioners for both the House of Commons and the Senate.

The RCMP was also called on to investigate after it was discovered that Duffy appears to have made Senate expense claims while campaigning for Conservative candidates during the last election.

– With files from the Associated Press