Watch: Laura Stone details the case against Mike Duffy
OTTAWA – The RCMP alleges Sen. Mike Duffy committed breach of trust and fraud on the government when he submitted housing and expense claims to the Senate and accepted a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, according to court documents.
“I believe that Senator Duffy has demonstrated a pattern of filing fraudulent expense claims,” reads the statement from RCMP peace officer Greg Horton, member of Sensitive and International Investigations within the RCMP’s National Division.
The document, called an information, lays out the RCMP’s case against Duffy and provides new details on the senator’s dealings with the prime minister’s former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright, who gave Duffy a $90,000 personal cheque to repay his expenses.
Wright’s lawyers, Peter Mantas and Patrick McCann, spoke with the RCMP and their claims are laid out in the file.
Among the alleged revelations are that Wright asked for two conditions from Duffy: pay back the money and “stop talking to the media about it.”
It says other people in the Prime Minister’s Office knew about the arrangement, but not Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Duffy had previously said Wright played no role in the payback.
Wright’s lawyers said the Conservative Party was initially going to repay the money for Duffy from a Conservative fund controlled by Conservative Sen. Irving Gerstein, when it was believed he only owed $32,000.
“When it was realized that the cost was actually $90,000, it was too much money to ask the Conservative Party to cover,” the document says.
Wright offered to cover the costs for Duffy “believing it was the proper ethical decision that taxpayers not be out that amount of money,” it says.
The others in the PMO who Wright claims were aware of the arrangement are: Gerstein, former PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin, Wright’s assistant David van Hemmen and director of issues management Chris Woodcock.
Global News has not yet received a response from Gerstein, Perrin, van Hemmen or Woodcock.
Wright received no direction from anyone, and knew Duffy but was not his friend, the document says. He did not make similar offers to other senators.
Wright’s lawyers said his role was to manage the Conservative Party and deal with matters “that could cause embarrassment.” Wright’s view was that Duffy should repay the money for the secondary housing, the documents say.
Duffy was concerned he did not have the money to cover the reimbursement, and that if he did not claim a primary residence in PEI, then his Senate seat could be in jeopardy.
“Wright assured him that was not the case,” the documents claim.
Wright’s lawyers said that at the time Wright paid the money, “he was unaware of any fraudulent expense claims on Duffy’s part.”
In a statement to Global News provided by Wright’s lawyer Peter Mantas, Wright said: “I have offered and given my assistance to the investigation and I intend to continue to do so. I have no further comments at this time.”
An email to Duffy requesting comment was not immediately returned.
The documents also corroborate claims by opposition senators that a Senate report into Duffy’s expenses was “whitewashed” by Conservative senators who proposed removing criticisms of Duffy.
“The finale Senate Report 22 relating to Duffy’s expenses was less critical than the original draft report, which is consistent with the purported deal between Duffy and Wright,” reads Horton’s statement.
“Based on all the information set above, I believe that there was an agreement between Duffy and Wright involving repayment of the $90,000 and a Senate report that would not be critical of him, constituting an offence of Frauds of the Government.”
The documents also outline days in which Duffy campaigned with Conservative candidates outside of Ottawa or was not in Ottawa but claimed per diems on those days. They are included in the breach of trust investigation.
The RCMP is also seeking documents and data for the entire time Duffy has been in the Senate.
The document also states that the prime minister was not aware of the arrangement, a claim echoed by Harper’s director of communications Andrew MacDougall.
“This file was handled by Nigel Wright and he has taken sole responsibility. The affidavit is clear that the Prime Minister was not aware of the payment,” MacDougall told Global News Thursday night.
NDP Ethics Critic Charlie Angus was quick to weigh in Thursday evening.
“According to the RCMP, at least three people in Stephen Harper’s inner circle knew of the Senator’s financial problems and plans to cover it up with a secret payment,” he said in a statement.
The Prime Minister’s Office orchestrated the illegal payment to Senator Duffy, the Conservative Party was implicated and knew about the cover up. Stephen Harper is responsible for the PMO and is the Head of the Conservative Party.”
A Conservative Party spokesman said in an email the Conservative Fund did not pay or reimburse any of the ineligible expenses.
None of the allegations raised by Horton or Angus have been proven in court.