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The Globe and Mail

In-and-out case put off till June - after possible election date

An Elections Canada official knocks on the door of Conservative Party headquarters in Ottawa on April 15, 2008 during an RCMP raid.

The Canadian Press

The case against four Conservative party officials facing charges over the party's in-and-out election financing scheme has been put off until June, well after a possible election date.

The system has been the subject of a protracted legal squabble between Elections Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada.

Elections Canada, with the support of the Director of Public Prosecutions, laid charges against the party and four senior officials last month relating to $1.3-million in alleged election overspending.

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The Conservatives say shuffling money between the national campaign and local campaigns was common practice and legal in 2006 - they call the case "a five-year-old administrative dispute."

But Elections Canada maintains the scheme allowed the national party to exceed its spending limit by permitting local candidates to claim rebates on expenses they hadn't actually incurred.

Two Conservative senators who served as campaign chairman and chief party fundraiser are among those charged.

The minority Conservative government could be thrust into an election campaign by Tuesday's federal budget or a Liberal confidence motion on March 25.

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