Senator Mike Duffy. FILE PHOTO
©THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA - The RCMP laid 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery against suspended Sen. Mike Duffy on Thursday.
The charges involve Duffy's claims for living expenses, claims for travel expenses unconnected with Senate business and fraudulent contracts, said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud.
They also cover the $90,000 Duffy allegedly received from Nigel Wright, the prime minister's former chief of staff.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the behaviour described in the RCMP charges "disgraceful.''
"We have assisted the RCMP throughout their investigation, and congratulate them on the progress they have made,'' Jason Macdonald said in a statement.
"Those who break the rules must suffer the consequences. The conduct described in the numerous charges against Mr. Duffy is disgraceful.''
"As this is now a criminal matter that is before the courts, we have nothing further to add.''
The opposition, meanwhile, blamed the charges on Harper, who appointed Duffy to the Senate.
"These charges and the scandal stem from the poor judgment of the prime minister,'' said New Democrat MP Nycole Turmel. "The buck stops with Stephen Harper.
Liberal MP Marc Garneau echoed that.
"These charges are extremely serious,'' Garneau said. "Mike Duffy is a legislator in Canada's Parliament and the prime minister of this country is the one who put him there.''
"Throughout this entire PMO ethics scandal, the prime minister has tried to evade responsibility.''
Michaud said the charges cover more than $200,000 in phoney expenses.
They include money Duffy claimed for living expenses in what he said was a secondary residence in Ottawa, as well as expenses he charged for travel on personal or political business.
The bribery charge covers the $90,000 payment from Wright.
"The investigation into Sen. Mike Duffy has been completed,'' Michaud said at a news conference.
"The case was initiated as an investigation into expense claims relating to his declared primary residence in Prince Edward Island, and secondary residence in Ottawa.''
Michaud said the investigation then widened into four different directions.
The first involved expense claims relating to Duffy's secondary residence in Ottawa, while the second covered the filing of Senate expense claims for travel for personal and partisan reasons, unrelated to Senate business.
A third avenue covered the awards of consulting contracts over a four-year period and the use of part of those funds for personal gain or for expenses that circumvent Senate oversight.
The last involved the $90,000 Duffy got from Wright to repay his residency expense claims.
Duffy's first court appearance is set for Sept. 16.
The charges could result in a prison sentence. The bribery count carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.
... More on this story as it develops, full details in the print and e-editions of The Guardian tomorrow.
Text of statement Thursday by Gilles Michaud, RCMP assistant commissioner, regarding criminal charges laid against Sen. Mike Duffy:
As commanding officer of the RCMP's National Division, I have committed to keeping Canadians apprised of the results into the criminal investigation of some senators' expense claims.
Today, I would like to inform you that the investigation into Sen. Mike Duffy has been completed. The case was initiated as an investigation into expense claims relating to his declared primary residence in Prince Edward Island, and secondary residence in Ottawa.
During the investigation of Sen. Duffy's expense claims, a total of four investigational avenues were uncovered.
The first avenue is the filing of Senate expense claims relating to living expenses associated with Mr. Duffy's secondary residence in Ottawa;
The second is the filing of Senate expense claims for travel for personal and partisan reasons, unrelated to Senate business;
The third is the awarding of consulting contracts over a four-year period, and subsequently using part of the funds from those contracts for personal gain or for expenses which circumvent Senate oversight;
And lastly, the circumstances under which Sen. Duffy asked for and received approximately $90,000 from Mr. Nigel Wright, for the purpose of repaying residency expense claims.
This morning, the RCMP has laid a total of 31 charges against Mr. Duffy relating to the avenues I have outlined.
The charges are set out as follows:
Expense claims in relation to his residency - Mr. Duffy has been charged with one count each of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust. The total amount of the fraud in this instance is $90,000.
Expense claims unrelated to Senate business - Mr. Duffy has been charged with five counts of fraud under $5,000, four counts of fraud over $5,000 and nine counts of breach of trust. The total amount of the frauds exceeds $50,000.
Awarding of consulting contracts - Mr. Duffy has been charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000, two counts of fraud under $5,000, and four counts of breach of trust. The total amount of the frauds exceeds $60,000.
Directly or indirectly corruptly accept, obtain, agree to accept, or attempt to obtain, for himself, money ($90,000 from Mr. Nigel Wright) - Mr. Duffy has been charged with one count each of bribery of a judicial officer, frauds on the Government and breach of trust.
Mr. Duffy will appear in court in Ottawa on Sept. 16, 2014.
Since the start of this investigation in 2013, a team of investigators from our Sensitive and International Investigations Section poured over four years' worth of expense claims, bank statements, phone records and thousands of emails. They interviewed numerous witnesses from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.
As I stated earlier, this investigation started as a referral into expense claims. Since then, investigators followed numerous leads and today's charges are the result of a careful examination of the facts.
We continue our work on another Senate file. Again, we will update Canadians once our work is completed.
In order to respect the court process, we will not be providing any further comments.