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Politics Wallin's 'suspicious' expense claims included personal trips, RCMP finds

Pamela Wallin speaks with the media as she leaves the Senate in Ottawa on Nov. 5, 2013.

SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Pamela Wallin misrepresented the nature of trips she took to Toronto and fabricated meetings that never occurred after she was confronted by external auditors about expense claims she filed with the Senate, the RCMP alleges in new court documents.

An RCMP investigation into the suspended senator's expenses identified 150 "suspicious" claims, including two dozen that related to Ms. Wallin's work as a board member for two Toronto-based companies. Ms. Wallin fraudulently claimed a total of $27,500 in expenses for events related to her position on the corporate boards of Porter Airlines and wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff & Associates, the RCMP allege.

"I believe that Senator Wallin traveled to Toronto to pursue personal and business interests, and later represented to the Senate that these travels were parliamentary related as she sought reimbursement for expenses incurred during these travels," Corporal Rudy Exantus wrote in the documents.

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The latest allegations come just weeks before another senator, former Conservative Mike Duffy, is set to go on trial in connection with his expense claims. The April 7 trial is a looming political problem for the Conservative government in the lead-up to this year's election, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, among a number of prominent former and current Conservative officials who were subpoenaed to testify.

The RCMP say there are reasonable grounds to believe Ms. Wallin committed a breach of trust by making improper expense claims and defrauded the Senate by more than $5,000 between 2009 and 2012. The RCMP investigation was launched after external auditors found that she had charged the Senate for personal and business expenses she was not entitled to claim.

When Ms. Wallin was confronted by the external audit, the RCMP allege, she misrepresented the nature of some of her trips to Toronto and fabricated meetings that investigators later determined never took place. "In doing so, I believe that Senator Wallin breached the standard of responsibility and conduct demanded of her and by the nature of her office," Cpl. Exantus wrote.

In one case, the RCMP allege Ms. Wallin told auditors that a March, 2010, echocardiogram appointment she had at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto was in fact a business meeting with Mr. Munk himself. Mr. Munk, who is now chairman emeritus of Barrick Gold, told the RCMP in an interview that he was in Switzerland at the time Ms. Wallin said they met, according to the court documents.

In another example, Ms. Wallin's office indicated to auditors that she flew to Toronto on Sept. 15, 2009, to attend a reception put on by the humanitarian organization Dignitas International. Follow-up inquiries by the RCMP revealed that Ms. Wallin was not on the guest list for that event, but had attended a dinner put on by the Council of Ontario Universities that same night. Ms. Wallin attended the dinner in her capacity as a chancellor at the University of Guelph, the RCMP says.

Ms. Wallin has not been charged and the allegations have not been tested in court.

Terrence O'Sullivan, Ms. Wallin's lawyer, said some of Ms. Wallin's corporate board expenses were submitted to the Senate through an "administrative error." There was no possibility for a personal gain for Ms. Wallin, he said, because the expenses would have been covered by the corporate boards she was serving on had she sent her expense claims to them.

"When that error was discovered, Senator Wallin repaid that money, in full, to the Senate," Mr. O'Sullivan said.

After the external audit, Ms. Wallin opted to repay a total of $154,191.29 in expenses that auditors found were either subject to reimbursement or subject to interpretation by the Senate's internal economy committee, including interest.

The RCMP requested documentation regarding Ms. Wallin's expenses for 11 Porter-related events and 13 Gluskin Sheff board meetings and dinners, according to the court documents.

Ms. Wallin was suspended from the Senate in November, 2013, along with Mr. Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, all former Conservatives. Former Liberal senator Mac Harb retired from the Red Chamber after an audit of his expense claims.

Mr. Duffy now faces 31 criminal charges, including bribery over the $90,000 he received from Mr. Wright, the Prime Minister's former chief of staff. The RCMP have also charged Mr. Harb and Mr. Brazeau with fraud and breach of trust in relation to their Senate expense claims.

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