Mike Duffy faces 31 charges including bribery, fraud, breach of trust
Suspended senator's lawyer says Duffy 'innocent of any criminal wrongdoing'
The RCMP has charged Senator Mike Duffy with bribery, frauds on the government and 29 other charges related to Senate expenses, the awarding of consultant contracts and the acceptance of a $90,000 payment by the prime minister's former chief of staff.
"The RCMP has laid a total of 31 charges against Mr. Duffy," Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said. He said Duffy is scheduled to appear in an Ottawa court on Sept. 16.
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Duffy's lawyer issued a statement late Wednesday to say the RCMP charges were coming against the suspended Conservative senator.
Michaud said the RCMP pursued four avenues of investigation in the Duffy case:
- Senate expenses related to claims on his secondary residence in Ottawa.
- Senate expenses related to claims unrelated to Senate business.
- Senate expenses related to consulting contracts.
- The $90,000 payment from the prime minister's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright.
These investigations yielded 31 charges. They included:
- One count each of fraud and breach of trust related to his residency expenses.
- Nine counts of fraud and nine counts of breach of trust for expenses unrelated to Senate business.
- Four counts of fraud and four counts of breach of trust related to the awarding of consulting contracts.
- One count each of bribery, frauds on the government and breach of trust related to the $90,000 payment Duffy received from Wright.
The fraud charges include charges for amounts both over and under $5,000.
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The RCMP confirmed it is also investigating a separate Senate matter but did not provide any details.
"We continue our work on another Senate file, again we will update Canadians once our work is completed," said Michaud.
Bribery is an act that usually involves two people but no one has been charged with offering Duffy a bribe. Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspon told the CBC this is an unusual situation.
"It will remain to be seen what role will be played by the other side. It takes, as they say, two to tango and it takes two to offer and accept a bribe," said Greenspon.
The RCMP said in April when it announced Wright would not be charged that "the evidence gathered does not support criminal charges against Mr. Wright."
Wright's lawyer, Peter Mantas, told the CBC's Rosemary Barton Thursday evening that no deal was cut with the RCMP or the Crown to avoid prosecution. Wright has been told to be prepared to testify.
Wright declined comment on the matter Thursday, instead referring to his previous statement that he was only interested in securing "the repayment of taxpayer funds."
Opposition, government react
The opposition laid the blame for the whole Duffy affair squarely at the feet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"These charges and the scandal stem from the poor judgment of a prime minister who appointed Mike Duffy to the Senate, hired Nigel Wright as his chief of staff and allowed a culture of corruption to fester in Ottawa," said NDP MP Nicole Turmel at a press conference in Ottawa after the charges were announced.
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Liberal MP Marc Garneau said the charges are "extremely serious."
"Mike Duffy is a legislator in Canada's Parliament and the prime minister of this country is the one who put him there," Garneau said.
The government released a terse statement soon after the RCMP News conference.
"Those who break the rules must suffer the consequences. The conduct described in the numerous charges against Mr. Duffy is disgraceful," wrote the Prime Minister's spokesman Jason MacDonald. He added the PMO has aided the RCMP in its investigation and congratulated the force for making progress in the case.
Lawyer maintains Duffy 'innocent'
Donald Bayne, Duffy's lawyer, in his earlier statement stressed his client is "innocent of any criminal wrongdoing."
"We are confident that when the full story is told, as it will be, and shown to be supported by many forms of evidence, it will be clear that Senator Duffy is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing," said Bayne.
The Senate voted last fall to suspend the former Conservative senator from Prince Edward Island as part of an ongoing controversy over disputed living expenses.
The RCMP has been investigating the housing claims and a $90,000 payment made to Duffy by Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper's former chief of staff, so Duffy could pay back the disputed claims.
Court documents filed by the RCMP in October sought banking information for Gerald Donohue, a friend of Duffy's. The investigator alleged Donohue was paid $65,000 over a four-year period by Duffy's Senate office "for little or no apparent work."
The RCMP said in April that no charges would be laid against Wright, who resigned as Harper's right-hand man after it was disclosed he gave Duffy $90,000.
Bayne said the evidence will show Duffy "did not want to participate in Nigel Wright's and the PMO's repayment scenario," which he contends was "concocted for purely political purposes."
Bayne added Duffy "intends to defend fully and fairly and to show that the truth and innocence are on his side."
"Sen. Duffy is thankful that the awful 16 months of waiting through a protracted and highly public police investigation is finally over, and we can move on to an impartial forum and fair hearing," Bayne said, adding the former senator has "never had a fair hearing" in the Senate or in the media.
Bayne also said in his statement that Duffy has undergone a second open-heart surgery since the scandal erupted, and "still has serious heart problems."
Duffy, along with fellow former Conservatives Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin, was suspended from the Senate last November over expense claims.
Liberal Mac Harb resigned from the Senate in August after paying back $231,000 for ineligible housing and travel expenses.
Harb and Brazeau face criminal charges of fraud and breach of trust, while Wallin has not been charged.
Mobile users, view The Canadian Press's Senate expenses timeline here.
This weekend, on the fifth estate
Watch the inside story from people who have known “the old Duff” since the early days of his career. "The Rise and Fall of Mike Duffy" traces his larger-than-life ambition and questionable expenses that ballooned into a political scandal that could take down the Senate.
- CBC Television: Saturday 2 p.m. ET & Sunday at 11:30 p.m. ET
- CBC News Network: Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, Sunday at 7 p.m. ET
With files from The Canadian Press