POLITICS

Senator Harb Didn't Live At 'Primary' Residence, RCMP Say

07/26/2013 11:24 EDT | Updated 09/25/2013 05:12 EDT
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RCMP investigators looking into Senator Mac Harb's travel and housing expense claims believe he has committed breach of trust and are further investigating a curious mortgage transaction.

The RCMP's lead investigator in the case, Cpl. Greg Horton, filed a production order request with the court that lays out the investigation to date and why he believes that Harb didn't live in two different properties he claimed as his primary residences over the past decade.

Senate rules allow senators to collect a housing allowance for a residence in Ottawa if their primary residence in more than 100 km away from the capital region. An external audit was done for the Senate on Harb's expenses, along with those of senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, and the Senate then asked Harb to repay some of the money he had claimed. He has repaid $51,000 but says he has done nothing wrong and is challenging the Senate in court.

The Senate has also advised Harb that he could pay back $231,649 if he wants to avoid a more extensive audit of his expenses dating back to 2005. The first audit only covered 18 months.

The RCMP says Harb claimed houses in Cobden, Ont., and Westmeath, Ont., as his primary residences but Horton believes he really lived in Ottawa and was not entitled to collect the allowances.

Harb, a former Liberal MP, was appointed to the Senate in 2003 and bought the house in Cobden three months later. It's about 123 km away from Ottawa.

Mortgage same day

The RCMP interviewed a number of people, some of whom said it appeared no one lived at that residence full-time.

In 2007, Harb transferred 99.99 per cent of the ownership of the home to Magdeline Teo, who was an Ottawa-based diplomat at the time for Brunei. The court document says that on October 12, 2007, Harb was granted a mortgage on the property for $177,000 and later that day the property was sold to Teo. He maintained a 0.01 per cent interest in the property.

"Obtaining a mortgage on the property and then transferring 99.99 per cent ownership of the property to Teo on the same day potentially put the bank at risk," it says. "Additional investigation will be conducted relating to this transaction."

The investigator also said the RCMP has not determined the relationship between Teo and Harb and that she has only agreed to answer questions by email. She now lives in China. She told investigators in writing that she and Harb are personal friends and that Harb lived at the property after he sold it to her, paying the mortgage as rent.

After the Cobden house was sold in 2011, Harb bought another property in Westmeath. The RCMP says it appears as though it was used as a secondary residence, not his primary one.

The RCMP requested documents from the Senate to support its case, including all travel expense claims filed by Harb since 2003, credit card bills, cell phone bills, and Senate attendance records.

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