ABOVE: Global’s Jacques Bourbeau and Tom Clark report on the latest surprising allegations against the PMO.
OTTAWA – The Prime Minister’s Office influenced three Conservative senators into changing a report critical of Senator Mike Duffy’s living expenses, a new court document alleges.
The document also says there was an “agreement” between Duffy’s lawyer Janice Payne and the PMO as set out by demands and conditions Duffy made through his lawyer before agreeing to pay back more than $90,000 in expenses.
That money, it was later revealed, came from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright – who is now officially under RCMP investigation along with Duffy for bribery, frauds on the government and breach of trust.
None of the allegations have been proven.
“My intention was always to secure repayment of funds owed to taxpayers. I acted within the scope of my duties and remain confident that my actions were lawful. I have no further comment at this time,” said Wright in a statement through his lawyer on Wednesday.
Harper has repeatedly denied he knew about Wright’s payment to Duffy.
Duffy’s demands to the PMO included withdrawing the senator from the Deloitte audit process, acknowledging he met all the requirements to sit as a Prince Edward Island senator, reimbursing his legal fees and ensuring members of the Conservative caucus spoke on the matter “consistent with agreed upon media lines.”
Police say the PMO “influenced” Conservative senators David Tkachuk, Carolyn Stewart Olsen and Marjory LeBreton to change a report into Duffy’s travel and housing claims because the wording “was in contrast” to the agreement made by Duffy’s lawyer Janice Payne and the PMO.
The draft Senate report, prepared by Senate administration, contained some criticism of Duffy’s claims and said his primary residence was Ottawa not PEI.
“This posed a problem for the PMO who in turned influenced Senators Tkachuk, Stewart Olsen and LeBreton to change the report to reflect wording that the PMO wanted,” the documents allege.
Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen sat on the the steering committee that wrote the report into Duffy’s expenses, and LeBreton was leader of the government in the Senate at the time.
In an email to Global News LeBreton said “I have dealt with the matter of the report on the public record many times. I have nothing further to add.” In the past, LeBreton has said Duffy was treated differently by the Senate committee because he had already paid the money back.
Tkachuk said in a statement Wednesday he didn’t know Wright paid Duffy’s expenses until it was reported in the media.
“Our committee’s report concerning Mike Duffy was issued prior to our learning about the Duffy-Wright arrangement,” Tkachuk said.
“That report was different than the reports concerning Senators Brazeau and Harb because we were, at that point, under the impression that Senator Duffy had paid the money back of his own volition and from his own funds, while the other two had yet to pay. Our report on Senator Duffy reflected that.”
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The documents, prepared by RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton, also outline how the so-called $90,000 deal was orchestrated.
Initially Wright and “others” believed Duffy owed approximately $32,000 and Wright approached Conservative Sen. Irving Gerstein, chair of the Conservative Fund, to have that amount and Duffy’s legal fees covered by the fund, the documents claim.
Gerstein “was considering the idea” until it was realized the actual amount owed was $90,000, it says, but agreed to cover the legal fees.
Wright decided he would personally cover the funds.
“After back and forth negotiations between Janice Payne and Benjamin Perrin (legal counsel within the PMO) terms of the agreement were set,” the document says.
This is how the RCMP says the deal was done:
– Duffy took out a mortgage loan for $91,600 from the Royal Bank of Canada;
– Duffy deposited $80,000 to his RBC line of credit;
– Wright sent a $90,000 bank draft to Payne’s office payable to her law firm;
– Payne’s office forwarded a personal cheque from Duffy to the Senate to pay $90,000
– That same day, a bank-to-bank transfer was made, depositing $90,000 back into Duffy’s account.
“In the evidence I have viewed, there are occasions when Senator Duffy stated he knew that Nigel Wright was the source of the $90,000, and other occasions where he said he did not know who the source of the money was,” Horton writes.
Wright told investigators during a June interview that he told Duffy several times he should repay the money from a “moral perspective.”