Politics

Retired Senator Mac Harb won't face criminal trial over expenses

Crown prosecutors have withdrawn criminal charges against retired Senator Mac Harb related to questionable Senate expenses, says his lawyer, Sean May. The news comes a day after the RCMP determined that no criminal charges would be laid against Senator Pamela Wallin.

Decision leaves Patrick Brazeau as the only senator facing trial over expenses

Criminal charges against retired Senator Mac Harb over irregularities in his Senate expenses have been withdrawn, his lawyer has confirmed. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Crown prosecutors have withdrawn all criminal charges against retired Senator Mac Harb related to his Senate expenses, says his lawyer, Sean May.

"Mr. Harb is very relieved but has been through an arduous process in which he has always maintained his innocence. Today's decision is a full vindication of him," May said in an email Friday to CBC News from an Ottawa court.

According to May, the Crown said in court it had "no reasonable prospect of conviction."

In a public statement, May later added that the withdrawal of all charges was a complete vindication of his client both "legally and ethically."

"Mac Harb has always been prepared to defend himself in a trial. He gave every cooperation to the investigation and independent audit conducted in this case," May said in a written statement.

Harb, who retired in 2013, had been charged with fraud and breach of trust over his Senate expense claims.

He repaid all $231,649.07 in living expenses claimed since 2005 by the time he retired from the upper chamber.

"Mr. Harb is proud of his long and distinguished career as a parliamentarian and public servant," May said on Friday.

Harb's trial, originally scheduled to begin last August, was postponed last summer so the court time could be used to continue Senator Mike Duffy's criminal trial.

Aaron Wudrick of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation discusses the Senate expense scandal, as Pamela Wallin and Mac Harb are cleared. 5:57

Duffy returned to the Senate earlier this month after he was acquitted in April of all 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to his living and travel expenses, Senate contracts and the repayment of some of his expenses by Stephen Harper's former chief of staff.

The news about Harb comes a day after the Mounties announced they would not to lay criminal charges against Independent Senator Pamela Wallin over her Senate expenses.

Wallin apologized in 2013 for errors made on her travel claims and and paid back $154,191.29.

Brazeau's lawyer hopes to see charges dropped

The decision to drop all charges against Harb means that only one senator is currently facing trial over expenses.

Senator Patrick Brazeau faces fraud and breach of trust charges in a trial that is scheduled for next year.

In a phone interview with Radio-Canada, CBC's French-language service, Brazeau's lawyer said he will be looking to meet with the Crown in the days to come.

"The Crown is slowly but surely realizing that they don't have a strong case," Christian Deslauriers said on Friday upon learning that all charges against Harb were dropped.

"This morning, from my understanding, the Crown said on the record — when dropping the charges against Mr. Harb — that they had no prospect of conviction given the fact the rules were so slack. So how could they prove a case against Mr. Brazeau?"

"They will have to make the right call and hopefully, they're going to drop the charges as well," Deslauriers said.

Brazeau, who also faces trial over an unrelated an impaired charge, is on a leave of absence from the upper chamber.

The Senate had been docking part of Brazeau's salary to repay nearly $50,000 in disallowed housing expense claims. A Senate spokeswoman said Friday that all outstanding monies have been "recouped in full."

Corrections

  • This story has been updated from an earlier version that said the Senate was clawing back Senator Patrick Brazeau's salary to repay disallowed expenses. In fact, those expenses have now been recouped in full, according to the Senate.
    May 20, 2016 6:34 PM ET

With files from Radio-Canada's Louis Blouin

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