Senate scandal: Benjamin Perrin's PMO emails not deleted

The Privy Council Office has informed the RCMP that emails belonging to Benjamin Perrin, the former Prime Minister’s Office lawyer named in court documents related to a deal between Nigel Wright and Senator Mike Duffy, were not deleted as was previously believed.

Privy Council Office apologizes to RCMP, says ex-PMO counsel's account frozen 'due to unrelated litigation'

Perrin's PMO emails not deleted

10 years ago
Duration 4:08
Privy Council Office apologizes to RCMP, says ex-PMO counsel's account frozen 'due to unrelated litigation'

Emails from Benjamin Perrin, a former lawyer to the Prime Minister's Office who allegedly knew about a deal between Nigel Wright and Senator Mike Duffy, are now being turned over to the RCMP, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday night.

The emails were thought to have been deleted.

Court documents released last month show Wright, Harper's former chief of staff, is being investigated for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, along with Duffy, in an RCMP probe that has expanded to include the PMO.

The affidavit, filed in court by the RCMP, noted that Perrin's email account had been deleted once he left his position last spring. RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton wrote in the affidavit that he was told standard practice in the PMO was to delete the emails and email accounts of departing employees.

In a letter released Sunday evening, Isabelle Mondou, the assistant to cabinet at the Privy Council Office, said the office — which is the arm of the civil service that works with the PMO — was wrong when it told the RCMP and the PMO that Perrin’s emails had been deleted when he left his position in March.

In fact, Perrin’s account had been frozen “due to unrelated litigation.”

"We regret that we previously failed, even if inadvertently, to accurately inform you [the RCMP] and the PMO about the availability of Mr. Perrin's emails," Mondou said in a letter to the RCMP, released to the media by Harper's office. "We apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused."

Benjamin Perrin, a UBC law professor, was the special adviser and legal counsel to the prime minister from 2012-13. (CBC)
The PCO says it will turn over the email records to the RCMP immediately.

'Monstrous fraud'

In 2012-13, Perrin took a leave of absence from his job at the University of British Columbia to work for the PMO. He served as the PMO's legal counsel and, according to his website, was the lead policy adviser on all matters related to:

  • The Department of Justice.
  • Public Safety Canada, including the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada.
  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Who is Benjamin Perrin?

Benjamin Perrin was involved in back-and-forth negotiations between Wright and Duffy through the senator's lawyer, Janice Payne, according to RCMP documents. Perrin was one of four people Wright told about the real source of the $90,000.

He was the special adviser and legal counsel to the Prime Minister, but is now out of government and works as a law professor at the University of British Columbia.

Read more about the connections revealed in emails read by investigators.

At UBC, Perrin teaches criminal law and procedure, and international criminal law.

The court documents show how the RCMP believe Wright gave Duffy $90,000 to pay back questionable housing expenses, allegedly in return for Duffy not speaking to the media. 

The documents reveal more details about the inner workings of the PMO and how involved it was in trying to fix the situation with Duffy's expenses.

In the documents, police say there are reasonable grounds to believe Wright offered money or favour to Duffy contrary to the Criminal Code, and allege Duffy agreed to accept the offer of money.

Police also allege Wright and Duffy "have committed bribery, frauds on the government, and breach of trust."

The RCMP affidavit suggests Conservative Fund Canada chairman Sen. Irving Gerstein was prepared at one point to use party funds to repay Duffy. According to the documents, the alleged agreement included a condition that once Duffy repaid the expenses, he would be reimbursed by a third party. Ultimately, Wright paid out of his own pocket when the bill — $90,000 — got too high for the party to bear.

The documents include email excerpts that suggest numerous senior officials in the PMO were involved in the negotiations, including Perrin, as well as in writing the report by the Senate committee that handled the audit process.

They also allege that Duffy himself was the instigator behind what he described in the Senate last month as a "monstrous fraud."

Duffy, Senators Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were suspended over the expenses scandal last month. The Senate also voted to cut their salaries and use of office resources.