OTTAWA — The long-running Mike Duffy fraud trial is inching toward the moment the senator might take the stand to testify in his defence, possibly as early as next week.
However, despite promises by defence lawyer Don Bayne that his client will paint a very different picture than what the prosecution has set out, there is no obligation for Duffy to do so. It’s quite possible Bayne will switch gears after he ended his cross-examination Friday of Duffy’s friend Gerry Donohue.
Bayne led Donohue to review all his dealings with Duffy, ending by asking if Duffy ever asked for or received any personal payment, cheque, cash or “kickbacks.”
“Not a penny,” said Donohue.
Duffy awarded a series of large contracts — about $65,000 in all over four years — to Donohue’s family company, through which about $40,000 was then paid out to other people for those services.
The Donohue company kept about $25,000 over four years, Donohue said. He agreed with Bayne the company owed the federal government nearly $6,000 in GST on the services Duffy contracted. Bayne suggested that, not counting the tax liability, it all meant that Donohue’s company got little more than about $6,000 a year for its own services administering the contracts for Duffy, as “payment for all the hours of consulting you did?”
Donohue agreed it was a “small or modest amount” of Duffy’s overall annual office budget, about $41 an hour in consulting fees.
“It’s certainly not an exorbitant amount of money,” Donohue replied.
The Crown has produced volumes of evidence and testimony to make its case that Duffy took an unusual — and illegal — route to pay for services that Senate administration officials said were not allowed under Senate rules: makeup, photo framing services, office volunteers, extra cellphone data plans or fitness sessions under the rubric of “consulting” on topics like aging.
Bayne has countered the Crown case with several arguments: that Senate administration failed to adequately oversee spending, that rules were vague or broad enough that they allowed the payments; and that Senate staff had no clear understanding of what Duffy’s “parliamentary function” entailed, including legitimate partisan work requested by Stephen Harper’s government and the Conservative party.
Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in connection with a $90,000 payment he accepted from Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to repay the Senate.
The prosecution expects to wrap up its case next week with its last witness, Sen. George Furey, who sat on the Senate’s board of internal economy committee throughout the Duffy expenses affair.