POLITICS

Senate Scandal: Benjamin Perrin's Emails Not Deleted, According To Privy Council Office

12/01/2013 09:50 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
CP

The emails of Stephen Harper's former legal advisor were not deleted when he left the Prime Minister's Office, according to a letter sent from the Privy Council Office (PCO) to the RCMP.

Benjamin Perrin, who was named in RCMP documents last week as a player in the deal between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy, left the PMO in late March.

The letter released Sunday night states when Perrin left in March, the PCO said they deleted his emails records as part of standard protocol. Last week, the RCMP sent another request to the PMO for Perrin's records to see if there were any backups.

But it turns out the Perrin's emails were held as part of "unrelated litigation", a discovery the PCO made the next day after PMO asked them to check again.

The PCO says it will ensure the emails are handed over to the RCMP as soon as possible.

"We regret that we previously failed, even if inadvertently, to accurately inform you and the PMO about the availability of Mr. Perrin's emails. We apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused," the PCO said in the letter.

Perrin's name appears in RCMP documents released in November containing explosive allegations about a scheme to repay Sen. Mike Duffy's disallowed housing expenses and whitewash a Senate report into the controversy.

The documents allege senior PMO staffers - including Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff and the man who paid Duffy's $90,000 bill - worked with top Tory senators to change the report after unsuccessfully trying to shape an independent audit.

In May, Perrin denied that he was ever consulted about, or participated in, Wright's decision to cover Duffy's expenses, and said he never communicated with Harper about it.

Harper has steadfastly maintained that he was kept in the dark about the scheme until learning May 15 that Wright had repaid Duffy's expenses, and has been laying the blame squarely at their feet. But a compelling series of emails between various PMO operatives, including Perrin, suggest details of the plan were more widely known that Harper has suggested.

The documents spell out allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against Wright and Duffy. The allegations have not been proven in court, and no one has yet been charged.

Wright resigned from the PMO in May, shortly after the details of the payment emerged. But other senior staff in the PMO, including director of issues management Chris Woodcock and manager of parliamentary affairs Patrick Rogers, were also active in the discussions about how to get Duffy to repay his expenses, the documents show.

Both are still with the government: Woodcock works for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, Rogers for Heritage Minister Shelly Glover.

The deal originally involved the party reimbursing Duffy for repaying his expenses, while curtailing an audit into his claims. Conservative Fund chairman Irving Gerstein was also aware of the talks, and he solicited information from a contact at auditing firm Deloitte about the status of their report.

With files from the Canadian Press