Pension coverup allegations 'baseless,' former RCMP chief says

Former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli has rejected accusations he was involved in a coverup of fraud allegations involving the Mounties' pension plan.

Former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli has strongly rejected accusations that he was involved in a coverup overthe handling of fraud and abuse allegationsinvolving the Mounties' pension and insurance plans in 2002.

RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli gestures during a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 7, 2006, a day after resigning over the Maher Arar affair. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the government is appointing anindependent investigator to probe the allegations and make a full public report.

Day's announcement came hours after Zaccardelli told CBC News by phonethat the allegations are "baseless."

"Not one piece of evidence was brought forward," he said from his home in Ottawa, adding that no money is missing from the RCMP pension fund.

"I'm not saying mistakes weren't made, but we corrected them."

Zaccardelli pointed out that an internal investigation in the matter conducted by the Ottawa Police Services found no criminal wrongdoing.

Members of a parliamentary committee are calling for a public inquiry into allegations of fraud, abuse and a coverupcommitted by seniorranking officialsof the RCMP, includingthe former commissioner.

The public accountscommittee called an emergency meeting Thursday, a dayafter hearing from several serving and retired RCMP officers who attacked the RCMPleadership over the handling of fraud and abuse allegations.

The committee, which met in a closed-door session,is considering summoning senior RCMP executives — including Zaccardelli — to testify.

Zaccardelli said he would be willing to appear before the committee to refute the allegations.

"We have to hear from him and he has to be given an opportunity to respond as well," Conservative MP John Williams, a member of the committee, told CBC News.

A criminal investigation into the allegations waslaunched, then cancelled two days later by Zaccardelli.

Zaccardelli, who resigned in December after admitting he gave incorrect testimony to another parliamentary committeeinvolving the Maher Arar affair,ordered an internal audit instead.

Ottawa police investigated

Five months later, the criminal investigation resumed, this time conducted by the Ottawa Police Service. It confirmed serious cases of nepotism and wasteful spending.

The findingsgot the attention of Auditor General Sheila Fraser, who launched her own investigation and found millions of dollars in inappropriate charges to the pension and insurance plans.

The RCMP has largely reimbursed the funds.

The officers told the committee that they felt stonewalled by more than one senior executive when they tried to raise the issues with the leadership.

Now-retiredstaff sergeantRon Lewis allegedhis queries were blocked by Zaccardelli.

"I was met with inaction, delays, roadblocks, obstruction and lies," Lewis told the committee, alleging that "the person who orchestrated most of this coverup was Commissioner Zaccardelli."

Barb George, the RCMP's deputy commissioner in charge of human resources, has stepped down from the position, but remains a member of the force, CBC News has learned.