OTTAWA—The RCMP alleges suspended senator Mike Duffy fraudulently billed the Senate for personal travel to attend funerals five times over a three-year period after Prime Minister Stephen Harper named him to the red chamber.
Documents filed in an Ottawa courthouse outline the charges against Duffy. They show the Mounties also believe Duffy skirted Senate scrutiny for illegitimate expenses by “facilitating” contract payments to four people — not just one, as previously suggested.
However, at least one of those named has told the Star she did work for Duffy and was paid at normal rates.
The charging documents reveal little new information about why investigators concluded that Duffy alone should face bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges for obtaining a $90,000 payment from Nigel Wright.
That’s the big question swirling now.
- Read the charges against Mike Duffy
- Mike Duffy: Summons to a person charged with an offence
In April the Mounties concluded there was insufficient evidence to criminally charge Wright, the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper who bailed out Duffy with a personal cheque for $90,000, after Harper insisted that Duffy repay expenses that were embarrassing the government, and Duffy claimed he was broke.
Yet the RCMP laid three charges against Duffy related to Wright’s $90,000 payment to him.
Some legal observers suggest the difference lies in which of the two men had formed a criminal or “corrupt” intent in the exchange. Wright’s emails cited by the RCMP suggest he was furious at Duffy’s expense claims, which included claiming for meals eaten at his Ottawa home, and was intent on seeing taxpayers’ repaid.
However, it seems the answer will not come until Duffy gets his day in court, and Wright is called, as is expected, to testify.
Duffy told CBC last week he is “keen” to see the charges aired in open court. He denies any criminal liability and calls the whole mess a “monstrous political scheme” forced on him by the PMO.
His lawyer, Don Bayne, issued a statement last week challenging the RCMP’s scenario that “what was not a crime or bribe when Nigel Wright paid it on his own initiative became, however mysteriously, a crime or bribe when received by Sen. Duffy.”
“The evidence will show, that Sen. Duffy did not want to participate in Nigel Wright’s and the PMO’s repayment scenario, which they concocted for purely political purposes,” Bayne said.
The RCMP served a summons Monday to Bayne’s office to demand Duffy’s appearance in an Ottawa court on Sept. 16.
The information sworn to support the charges, filed by RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton, lists the 31 counts announced last week.
The documents cite dates and specific numbers of the expense claims Duffy filed to the Senate that are the focus of each charge, but Horton did not flesh out details of each count.
It does, however, reveal that five of the allegedly inappropriate travel expense claims are related to “personal attendance at funerals and related ceremonies” between April 2009 and March 2012. Duffy was sworn in as a senator in January 2009. It is not clear whose funerals Duffy attended and why they would not be subject to reimbursement under Senate business.
Duffy faces a total of eight charges of fraud and breach of trust in connection with a separate alleged misuse of $60,000 in public funds for consulting contracts.
Duffy is alleged to have fraudulently expensed contract work that — according to a previous affidavit by Horton — he hired his former CTV pal Gerald Donahue to do, but for which Donahue told RCMP he did “little or no work.”
Assistant commissioner Gilles Michaud said Thursday the investigation uncovered that some of these funds were used for “personal gain or for expenses that circumvent Senate oversight.”
The new documents name three other individuals who allegedly received payments that were “disbursements of monies previously paid to Gerald Donahue for illegitimate expenses.” They are Ashley Cain, Jacqueline Lambert, and Mike Croskery. The reason for the payments is not specified.
The Star reached one of the people named, Lambert, a freelance make-up artist in Ottawa, who said at Duffy’s request she once went up to Parliament Hill to do his make-up for a photo session that Duffy and another senator were sitting for. She doesn’t recall the name of the photographer, but “he took a bunch of photos.”
“I did a make-up job for him (Duffy) and he paid me. I just did his make-up and another senator as well,” Lambert said, baffled by why the RCMP would name her in the charges against Duffy: “I have done nothing wrong.”