In his first comments since the RCMP laid 31 criminal charges against him, beleaguered senator Mike Duffy is vowing to prove his innocence in court.
Mr. Duffy was scrummed by media in Prince Edward Island Friday, where he has a residence in the Cavendish area, and he also provided comment to The Globe.
“The court process will allow Canadians to hear all of the facts,” Mr. Duffy said in a statement.
“They will then understand that I have not violated the Criminal Code.”
The PEI senator said he does not intend to talk to media any further on this matter.
Images of Mr. Duffy posted on Twitter by a Global TV reporter Friday morning showed the suspended senator exiting his Cavendish cottage and driving away from the well-manicured property.
On Thursday the Mounties laid 31 criminal charges against Mr. Duffy, levelling accusations of misspending by a Conservative appointee to the Red Chamber that will dog Stephen Harper as he prepares to fight an election in 2015.
In a curious twist, the RCMP also charged Mr. Duffy with bribery over the $90,000 he received from former Harper chief of staff Nigel Wright to pay back improperly claimed expenses – even though the Mounties failed to charge the ex-aide for writing the cheque.
Mr. Duffy’s lawyer has threatened to drag the Prime Minister’s Office back into the matter by showing that PMO officials coerced the senator into accepting the money, which was used to reimburse taxpayers. It’s possible Mr. Harper himself could face pressure to give testimony, legal experts say.
The Duffy investigation began with a probe of housing allowance claims for an Ottawa home that the senator said was not his primary residence but the RCMP alleges was in fact his main dwelling.
It grew far beyond that, Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud of the RCMP’s National Division said Thursday, to include expenses charged to taxpayers for personal or party-related travel, the awarding of consultant contracts where funds were allegedly used for personal gain, and the circumstances under which the senator asked for, and received, $90,000 from Mr. Wright.
The charges Mr. Duffy faces include 15 counts of fraud for amounts totalling more than $200,000, 15 counts of breach of trust and one count of bribery.
Mr. Duffy’s lawyer says they have not been served with any documents from the RCMP.
“No disclosure at all.”
This is a sign that the information to justify the charges have not yet been filed in court.
The PEI senator will appear in an Ottawa court Sept. 16 on the matter, but a trial could take until the fall of 2015 to begin. The next federal election is scheduled for October 2015, although Mr. Harper could call one earlier.
Mr. Duffy maintains his innocence and said he looks forward to a fair hearing in court, where he will mount a vigorous defence.