The RCMP have begun following the paper trail behind Senator Mike Duffy’s recent allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office and senior Conservatives are more heavily involved in the Senate expenses scandal than Canadians realize.
The officer in charge of “Sensitive and International Investigations” at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has written Mr. Duffy’s lawyer asking for e-mails and documents that would corroborate the PEI politician’s version of events.
“The existence of such documentation may potentially be evidence of criminal wrongdoing by others,” RCMP Superintendent Biage Carrese wrote in a Nov. 1 letter to Mr. Duffy’s lawyer. But the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday as far as it knows the nerve centre of the government is not under investigation, nor is any current employee.
“The RCMP has not suggested that they are investigating the PMO or anyone currently in PMO,” Prime Minister’s Office director of communications Jason MacDonald said.
That statement of course, doesn’t cover the many staff that have left the PMO in the past six months, either returning to private life or joining minister’s offices.
“We have actively assisted the RCMP in accessing whatever information they have required as part of their investigation, and will continue to do so if or as required,” Mr. MacDonald said.
The Mounties are hoping that Mr. Duffy will offer them fresh evidence to examine.
The RCMP has specifically requested any e-mails that might show the Prime Minister’s Office coached the senator to lie to Canadians about the source of the $90,000 he obtained to reimburse questionable expense claims this spring.
Nigel Wright, a wealthy Bay Street executive and at the time Mr. Harper’s chief of staff, provided the funds from his own savings. In his Senate speech last week, fighting efforts to remove him from the Red Chamber, Mr. Duffy alleged the PMO in February ordered him to mislead Canadians about the source of the money and say it came from a Royal Bank loan instead.
“That line about RBC was part of the script written for me by the PMO,” Mr. Duffy told the Senate on Oct. 29. “After all of the threats and intimidation, I reluctantly agreed to go along with this dirty scheme. The PMO spin machine went into high gear.”
Supt. Carrese has asked Mr. Duffy’s lawyer for “e-mails from the PMO specifically relating to a script for Senator Duffy to follow in advance of obtaining funds from a RBC loan to repay the Receiver General,” the officer responsible for receiving payments made to the Canadian government.
“My investigators are interested in gathering all evidence respecting this matter in order to conduct a thorough investigation,” Supt. Carrese said in the letter.
The Mounties are also seeking e-mails and documents that Mr. Duffy says prove he’d followed the rules on claiming expenses.
The PEI politician also alleges that Mr. Wright had okayed his expenses in December 2012.
“The PMO, speaking explicitly through Nigel Wright, and after checking into my expense claims, wrote me on Dec. 4, 2012: ‘Mike I am told you have complied with all of the applicable rules and there would be several senators with similar arrangements,’ ” the senator said last week.
“This was Dec. 4, 2012 after I had been four full years as a senator,” he said. And this is in direct reference to all of the living allowance claims that Senator [Claude] Carignan says I broke the rules about.”
Finally, the RCMP is looking for a memo that Mr. Duffy said guided him in interpreting the residency policy when he claimed housing expenses despite having a long-time home in Kanata, Ont., a suburb of Ottawa.
“In the memo, Senator LeBreton has her constitutional expert explain the residency policy. The memo says the Senate itself determines what constitutes residency, free entirely from definitions set out by other government departments or statutes,” Mr. Duffy told the chamber last week.
“The memo further explains that residency does not depend in any way on the number of days spent in one’s home province or at a given residence,” he recounted.
“I followed the advice in this memo; as did my staff when they filled in my housing allowance and expense forms under the guidance and supervision of the experts at Senate Finance.”