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PMO denies withholding RCMP email about Duffy-Wright deal

Conservative Senator Mike Duffy leaves Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on June 6, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand.
Conservative Senator Mike Duffy leaves Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on June 6, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand.

OTTAWA – The Prime Minister’s Office denies it is withholding an email from the RCMP concerning Nigel Wright’s $90,000 cheque to Sen. Mike Duffy.

In response to a CTV story about the email, spokeswoman Julie Vaux told Global News:

“Contrary to CTV’s reporting, our office has not been asked for this e-mail.  As we have always said, we will assist investigations into this matter,” she said in an email.

When asked to confirm that the PMO is in possession of this email, Vaux said:

“As we have said, we will assist investigations into this matter.”

CTV says the Feb. 20 email describes a secret deal to have Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff, personally bail out Duffy after he improperly claimed more than $90,000 in living expenses and faced an upcoming audit of his spending.

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The network claims in the email that Duffy told his lawyer that Wright worked out a “scenario” where all of his invalid expenses would be covered, including “cash for the repayment.”

Duffy would then claim he paid the money and the government would soften the blow of the audit. A Senate committee subsequently went easier on Duffy than it did on Sens. Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau, although Conservatives on the committee say that is because he had repaid the money.

Duffy, a former Conservative senator who now sits as an independent, is being investigated by the RCMP on breach of trust and fraud allegations.

Wright’s lawyers told the RCMP that three others in the PMO as well as Conservative Sen. Irving Gerstein knew about the deal, contradicting what Harper has said publicly about the scandal.

But Harper maintains his former chief of staff acted alone in paying Duffy’s invalid expense claims.

“It was a decision of Mr. Wright and he will be held accountable for that,” Harper said at a news conference earlier this month.

“I think if you read the affidavit it makes very clear that the decision to pay money to Mr. Duffy out of Mr Wright’s personal funds was made solely by Mr. Wright and was his responsibility.”

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The Mounties have interviewed at least three senators on the matter – Marjory LeBreton, government leader in the Senate at the time; Carolyn Stewart Olsen, one of two Conservative senators responsible for amending the initial report on Duffy’s expenses; and Liberal George Furey, who objected to the amendments.

LeBreton said she was interviewed on July 3, one day before she announced her previously made decision to resign as the government’s Senate leader.

“I fully co-operated,” she said in an email.

As for the elusive email, LeBreton said: “I have no knowledge of it, other than what has been reported in the media.”

-With files from The Canadian Press