OTTAWA - The ethics watchdog is deciding whether to probe a Conservative cabinet minister over allegations he did not disclose bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.
But a spokesman for Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino insists he does not have any offshore accounts.
"The allegation is completely false," Chris McCluskey said Thursday. "The minister has complained to the RCMP about possible mistaken identity, or identity theft."
So far, conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mary Dawson's office is saying little about the matter.
"We can confirm that the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has corresponded by email with Mr. Lorello and received the information provided by Mr. Richard Lorello," spokeswoman Jocelyne Brisebois said in an email.
"The information was forwarded to the investigations unit in March 2012. The commissioner is currently gathering further information to conduct an assessment of whether sufficient grounds exist to proceed to an investigation in this matter."
A chain of emails shows Dawson's officials have been corresponding since early March with former Conservative candidate Richard Lorello over documents that purport to show bank accounts and wire transfers under the minister's name.
Lorello ran unsuccessfully for the Conservatives in Vaughan, Ont., in 2008. Fantino subsequently won a 2010 byelection to become that riding's member of Parliament. As the associate defence minister, Fantino is in charge of buying military equipment.
Lorello later resigned from the Conservative riding association in Vaughan over what he says were concerns about a multimillion-dollar government grant to the Vaughan Health Campus of Care.
He and two other ex-members of the riding association are embroiled in a bitter dispute with the current local executive. The three former riding association members have all sworn affidavits alleging possible irregularities in Fantino's byelection and 2011 federal election campaigns. Elections Canada is reviewing those complaints.
Fantino's office has denied the allegations.
Last year, Lorello says someone sent him documents that purported to show Fantino had several Cayman bank accounts. The documents purport to be UBS Wealth Management monthly financial statements in Fantino's name, which show a combined amount of US $321,978.59 in three Cayman bank accounts.
Another wire transfer purports to show US $50,000 was transferred from RBC Bank in Nassau, Bahamas, to RBC Private Bank in the Cayman Islands.
The minister has not disclosed any offshore accounts in his conflict-of-interest declaration for the ethics commissioner's public registry.
Lorello sent the documents to the ethics commissioner and the Canada Revenue Agency. He says he does not know whether the documents are real or fake, nor is he alleging any wrongdoing. He says he simply wants the ethics commissioner to look into the matter.
A Canada Post tracking slip shows a package sent priority shipping from Vaughan arrived in Ottawa on March 16.
Investigator Marie-Josee Smith emailed Lorello 11 days later.
"I have been assigned to review your complaint and the Commissioner has been briefed on your complaint," she wrote.
"In order to determine the legitimacy of the documents that you have provided, could you please indicate the source of your information?"
Lorello replied he received the documents from an anonymous sender.
"I am assuming that the documents were sent to me because of my involvement in other issues that were exposed over the past year and were reported nationally in the media," he wrote.
"As I stated in my letter, I am not able to verify as to whether the documents are authentic or not, nor am I alleging any wrong doing. However, due to the nature of the material I feel that the material should be authenticated to be true or false."
Lorello and Smith exchanged several more emails that day. She indicated that she could not update him on steps the ethics commissioner's office was taking. Smith did say she could tell Lorello when the matter is closed.
Lorello followed up again on April 5. A week later, Smith replied that the matter was still "under review." The case has been assigned file number 8-10-(2012-06), alternately listed as CRM:0046001.
Last week, Smith emailed Lorello to say she needed more information about the documents. A telephone call was scheduled for April 18 between Lorello, Smith and Eppo Maertens, director of reports and investigations.
Lorello says the call lasted about 20 or 25 minutes. He declined to give investigators the email address of the person who sent him the documents.
"Although I do not know the source, I cannot provide the email address of the source either, due to the fact that I would be betraying a trust and the source does not wish to come forward at this time," Lorello wrote to Smith after the call.
"The source has provided the information to me in good faith and I as a citizen have provided the information to the proper Canadian authorities, including the Office of the Ethics Commissioner because I feel that it is my duty to do so."
Welcome to the $3 million club. The following 10 MPs will each receive an estimated total lifetime pension of more than $3 million if they retire in 2019. All the <a href="http://taxpayer.com/sites/default/files/CTFMP-PensionReport-WEB.pdf" target="_hplink">estimates come from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation</a> and are based on an MP retiring in 2019 and ceasing to receive their pension at age 80. The numbers if the MPs retire in 2015 are also included in the caption to each slide.
Conservative MP Michael Chong would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,684,816 if he were to retire in 2015.
Conservative MP Peter Van Loan would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,462,029 if he were to retire in 2015. (CP)
Conservative MP Rona Ambrose would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,429,149 if she were to retire in 2015. (CP)
Conservative MP Rob Anders would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,034,089 if he were to retire in 2015. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Liberal MP Denis Coderre would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,288,821 if he were to retire in 2015. (Graham Hughes/CP)
Liberal MP Scott Brison would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,113,881 if he were to retire in 2015.
Conservative MP James Moore would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $2,893,658 if he were to retire in 2015. (Althia Raj)
Liberal MP Gerry Byrne would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,450,711 if he were to retire in 2015.
Conservative MP Jason Kenney would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $3,416,779 if he were to retire in 2015. (CP)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $5,456,109 if he were to retire in 2015. Harper's numbers are based on the PM not buying back into the program for his service as a Reform Party MP between 1993-1997. In order to make a political statement, Harper did not contribute to the pension program during his time as a Reform MP. After returning to Parliament Hill in 2002, Harper could have retroactively contributed to the program for his service from 1993 to 1997. According to the PMO, Harper has not and will not make those contributions. MPs are not obligated to disclose this information. If Harper were to choose to buy back in for those years, his numbers would change. If he were to buy back in and retire in 2019 he would receive an estimated lifetime pension of $6,216,858 and $6,233,568 if he were to retire in 2015. His numbers also include the special allowance he will receive as Prime Minister. An earlier version of this story used the numbers based on Harper buying back in for the 1993 to 1997 period. After being contacted by the PMO with the prime minister's pledge not to do so, the numbers were updated. (CP)
Here's a rundown of <a href="http://www.parl.gc.ca/ParlInfo/Lists/Salaries.aspx?Menu=HOC-Politic&Section=03d93c58-f843-49b3-9653-84275c23f3fb&Year=2011" target="_hplink">how much our MPs make</a> depending on their position in the House. (Alamy)
The base salary for a Member of Parliament is $157,731. Being named to cabinet or other positions nets an MP extra pay. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/scazon/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Scazon</a>)
NDP MP Nycole Turmel is the Official Opposition Whip. (CP)
Bob Rae is the interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. (CP)
Tim Uppal is the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. Ministers of State are essentially junior cabinet ministers. (CP)
Jim Flaherty is Minister of Finance. (CP) All ministers also receive a car allowance of $2,122.
As NDP chief, Thomas Mulair is leader of the Official Opposition. He also receives a $2,122 car allowance. (CP)
Andrew Scheer is currently serving as speaker. On top of his salary, Scheer receives a rent allowance of $3,000 and a car allowance of $1,061. (CP)
As Prime Minister, Stephen Harper also receives a car allowance of $2,112. (AP)