The RCMP is investigating Senator Mike Duffy for possible breach of trust in connection with payments he received during the 2011 federal election.
Documents filed in an Ottawa court reveal that the Mounties have seized election records for 12 Conservative candidates, as well as expense claims and residency declarations Mr. Duffy filed with the Senate. Police also seized property records for Senator Mac Harb, but did not refer to breach of trust in the records related to that seizure.
It’s the latest development in a saga that has seen three senators asked to return tens of thousands of dollars in residency-related expenses. A fourth senator, Pamela Wallin, has paid back at least $38,000 in travel expenses as an audit of her claims continues.
The RCMP confirmed last week it is investigating the Senate expenses affair, but declined to provide details. Court documents show that the probe into Mr. Duffy’s affairs is being conducted by the “sensitive and international investigations” detachment and focuses on whether a breach of trust occurred.
It was revealed last week that the RCMP were investigating the Senate expenses affair, including a cheque from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former top aide, Nigel Wright, to Mr. Duffy.
The separate court documents show that the RCMP are looking into the cases of both Mr. Harb and Mr. Duffy, but all the reports were filed by the same RCMP officer, Constable Jane Won Kyung Lee.
Mr. Harb, first appointed as a Liberal, has been under fire for housing allowance claims he made despite living in the Ottawa area. He has been ordered to repay more than $230,000, but he has filed for a judicial review and signaled he intends to fight the order.
Court documents show that RCMP Constable Mark Rysanek obtained the records of Mr. Harb’s former home on June 10. Property records show Mr. Harb bought the property at 62 Durack Line Rd. in Cobden, Ont., for $148,000 in December, 2003, three months after being appointed to the Senate by then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Mr. Harb sold the property on May 27, 2011, for $505,000. Cobden is about an hour outside Ottawa.
Documents released at the Ottawa courthouse Thursday show no indication that RCMP have sought information on Mr. Harb’s current residence in Westmeath, Ont., about 30 minutes north of Cobden.
RCMP have also seized, on June 5, elections campaign filings of 11 candidates – Scott Armstrong, Gerald Keddy, Greg Kerr, Sandy Lee, Wladyslaw Lizon, David Morse, Joe Oliver, Tilly O’Neill Gordon, Gin Siow, Rodney Weston and John Carmichael. The Mounties seized their electoral campaign returns from 2011, “specifically expense claims and payment documents related to Mike Duffy,” according to court records.
The Globe and Mail has viewed those 11 candidates’ returns. Each of them were sent expense claims by Mr. Duffy for campaign stops during the 2011 campaign. The returns, however, indicate that Mr. Duffy billed at least five other campaigns that ultimately did not report his expenses to Elections Canada. Of all the Conservative candidates in the 2011 election, only those 11 reported paying Mr. Duffy any money.
However, the Mounties also seized the campaign return of a twelfth candidate, New Brunswick Conservative Robert Goguen, eight days later on June 13. RCMP were looking for “specifically expense claims and payment documents related to Mike Duffy,” according to court records. Mr. Goguen’s campaign finance forms don’t indicate, however, any payments made to Mr. Duffy.
Mr. Goguen was asked by reporters last month about the Senate expense controversy, and blamed Liberal senators for blocking reforms. “I don’t expect that it will go easily for those that, you know, don’t abide by the rules,” he told CBC at the time.
Court records show RCMP have also received a letter from Senate Clerk Gary O’Brien, as well as a DVD including information about Mr. Duffy. That included his residence information; his expense claims; minutes of a May 28 meeting of the “IEC,” an apparent reference to the Senate’s Internal Economy Committee that met that day; and the clerk’s report, on Mr. Duffy’s travel claims, made to that committee that day. Those documents were all received by investigators on June 7, according to court records.
RCMP also received another letter, dated June 14, from Mr. O’Brien, as well as another DVD “containing expense claims for Senator Michael Duffy,” court records show.
Mr. Harb’s property information and the campaign finance records were seized willingly from the municipal office and Elections Canada, respectively, without a warrant.
Earlier this week, Mr. Harb filed an application for judicial review with the Ontario Superior Court, arguing that the Senate’s internal economy committee did not handle his case fairly or give him a reasonable opportunity to respond to its report on his residency claims.
Independent auditors found that Mr. Harb spends more time in Ottawa than in his Westmeath, Ont., home but also said the rules on Senate residency claims were not clear. The committee disagreed and ordered Mr. Harb to repay the money he had claimed in living and related mileage expenses over the past two years. It later told him he would have to pay the money back for the past eight years, for an amount totalling more than $230,000.
Mr. Harb’s lawyer, Simon Ruel, said on Thursday that Mr. Harb would co-operate with police but has not been contacted by the RCMP. He said he heard about the RCMP request for Mr. Harb’s property records through the news.
“We didn’t hear about the investigation, we didn’t know he was the subject- or, is he the subject? We don’t even know,” Mr. Ruel said.
With a report from Stephanie Chambers and Rick Cash