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One of the central figures in the Bingogate political scandal of the early 1990s died Wednesday.

Dave Stupich, the former B.C. New Democrat cabinet minister and onetime MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan, was 84. The cause of his death was not released.

Once revered as one of the most powerful politicians in Canada, Mr. Stupich was shamed publicly after masterminding the Nanaimo Commonwealth Holding Society bingo scam.

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The scandal led to the resignation of then-premier Mike Harcourt, although he was not implicated.

Mr. Stupich was first elected to the B.C. Legislature as MLA for Nanaimo-Cowichan in 1963 and spent the better part of the next 30 years serving as an MLA or MP for the Nanaimo region.

Provincially, he held two cabinet posts, serving as minister of agriculture and minister of finance. In the late 1950s, Mr. Stupich set up and controlled the Nanaimo Commonwealth Holding Society, which raised funds on behalf of the NDP.

But after receiving a tip that something was amiss from Jacques Carpentier, head of the Nanaimo Commonwealth Bingo Association, RCMP launched an investigation into the society, including a forensic audit of its operations.

The investigation took years but when completed, found Mr. Stupich ran kickback schemes in which donations to charities were refunded to the society.

In 1999, Mr. Stupich pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years for his role in Bingogate. He was ordered to serve out his sentence on electronic monitoring at his daughter's home in Nanaimo.

Dale Lovick, who was the NDP MLA for Nanaimo from 1986 through 2001 and shared a constituency office with Mr. Stupich, looked back on his life with saddness.

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"When I think in terms of Dave and his career, I think in terms of great tragedy," he said. "Here was a guy who, until a series of events late in his political career, was universally admired and respected.

"How sad his career ended as it did. He did more good than bad, that's for sure."

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