OTTAWA — The RCMP have dropped their investigation into Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright.
The Mounties alleged in court documents made public last November that they believed Wright had committed bribery, fraud and breach of trust when he gave sitting senator Mike Duffy a secret $90,172.24 payment to repay inappropriate housing expenses.
But RCMP spokesperson Corporal Lucy Shorey said Tuesday the evidence gathered in the investigation, which began in June 2013, does not support criminal charges against Wright.
"When the RCMP initiated the investigation there were sufficient grounds to pursue the matter with regards to the offences of breach of trust, bribery, frauds on the government, as well as receiving prohibited compensation contrary to the Parliament of Canada Act," Shorey said.
"Upon completion of the investigation, we have concluded that the evidence gathered does not support criminal charges against Mr. Wright."
Wright is pleased by the news, sources say. He issued a statement Tuesday through his lawyer, Peter Mantas.
"My intention was to secure the repayment of taxpayer funds. I believed that my actions were always in the public interest and lawful.
"The outcome of the RCMP's detailed and thorough investigation has now upheld my position."
Harper spokesman Jason MacDonald said in a statement the Prime Minister's Office is "pleased the RCMP has made progress in their work."
"The Prime Minister's Office will continue offering every possible assistance to the RCMP's investigation," he said.
The Commons' ethics watchdog Mary Dawson said she is reviewing whether to reopen her probe into Wright's actions and would not comment further at this time.
Wright is a lawyer by training and was a managing director at Canadian private equity giant Onex Corp before joining the Prime Minister's Office in 2010.
Onex's billionaire chairman, Gerry Schwartz, said in an email to HuffPost on Tuesday that he supports Wright.
"Nigel is a person of the highest integrity. There is no surprise in this entirely appropriate decision."
Tom Long, a longtime friend of Wright's, also expressed relief and satisfaction with the RCMP's decision.
"I am happy beyond words that balanced justice and common sense has prevailed,” said Long.
The Globe and Mail reported that now that the RCMP’s investigation of Wright has ended, the Mounties won't need to interview Harper, who has not yet spoken to the RCMP on the scandal.
The RCMP, however, may call upon Wright to testify as a witness in a future proceeding, one source said. Wright could be asked to testify against Mike Duffy, signalling more trouble for the embattled senator.
In an email to HuffPost, a source involved with Duffy's legal team said they have several emphatic emails suggesting Wright did not think the senator had acted inappropriately.
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said Canadians should be cynical about the lack of ethics in Ottawa right now.
"Now it's okay to make secret payouts from the Prime Minister's Office to a sitting senator to make political problems disappear," Angus said.
"If that's okay, then pretty much anything would be okay under Stephen Harper's watch."
In court documents, RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton seemed to suggest that Wright digged into his own pockets to pay Duffy's expenses after the PEI senator and the Conservative party balked at the $90,172.24 expense.
Wright, in emails sent to his staff, said he didn't think Duffy had committed fraud by claiming his Cavendish home as his principal residence rather than his home in an Ottawa suburb and expensing per diems and overnight costs.
"I personally do not think that Mike committed a crime at all - if I did we would have pursued a different course," Wright wrote to Harper's then-principal secretary, Ray Novak, who is now the Prime Minister's chief of staff.
Wright went out of his way to ensure a Senate committee report and a supposedly independent audit did not find against Duffy.
Wright resigned from his PMO post on May 19, 2013, days after the Prime Minister's Office confirmed he personally helped Duffy pay back his housing expense claims. Harper's staff initially insisted the Prime Minister had no knowledge of the Wright-Duffy deal and stood by his chief of staff. But five days later into the Senate scandal, it became clear Wright had to be let go.
Sources say, however, that Wright kept in close contact with PMO staff and has helped on files such as the European free trade deal.
Wright has also has been volunteering at the Ottawa Mission, a homeless shelter close to his luxury condo. He is said to be mulling over several offers of employment, and appreciative that so many in the business community stood by his side. Wright told one friend that he felt his reputation in Toronto was better than ever.
In February, former Conservative senator Patrick Brazeau and former Liberal senator Mac Harb were charged with one count each of fraud and breach of trust in relation to their living and travel expense claims.
Mounties continue to investigate allegedly fraudulent expense claims by suspended senators Duffy and Pamela Wallin.
Earlier on HuffPost:
'I Can't Figure Out Why The RCMP Would Have Anything To Do With This'
Sen. Mike Duffy sent an email to Nigel Wright following a news story referencing a Senate matter. (Continued)
'I am Extremely Frustrated'
'I Am No Longer 100% Sure We Can Deliver'
On March 1, Duffy's lawyer Janice Payne emailed former PMO legal adviser Ben Perrin for an update.
'I Am Personally Covering Duffy's $90K...'
In an March 8 email, Wright told Chris Woodcock the party would not be paying the Duffy cheque.
'But PM's Reputation – And That Of Sen Caucus – Going Down In Flames''
On May 9, Wright responded to an email forwarded by Ray Novak from Sen. Linda Frum over concerns about protecting Tory senators.
'Chinese Water Torture'
On page 26 of the documents, the RCMP note "On February 15, there were e-mail discussions within the PMO about the Senate Rules committee and a proposed definition of residency, Nigel Wright e-mailed Benjamin Perrin."
'He Just Handed The Libs The Reason To Go To The Police'
On page 44 of the documents, the RCMP detail an email exchange between Tory Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen and PMO staffers Chris Woodcock and Patrick Rogers.
'We Are Good To Go From The PM'
Page 32 of the documents details a Feb. 22 email from Nigel Wright to staffers in the PMO, including lawyer Benjamin Perrin.
'The PM Knows, In Broad Terms Only...'
Page 45 of the documents details an email on May 14 from PMO staffer Andrew MacDougall to Nigel Wright and others. MacDougall says he has received inquiries from a journalist about Nigel Wright co-signing a loan for Senator Duffy to repay the money. Carl Vallee, PMO Press Secretary, writes: "Would the PM know the actual answer to the question? Just in case he asks us."
UP NEXT: Get To Know Nigel Wright
1) He probably took a BIG pay cut
It is believed that Wright was <a href="http://thewalrus.ca/mister-right/?ref=2011.04-politics-mister-right&page=" target="_blank">earning more than $2 million</a> in salary and bonuses at Onex, but made around $300,000 working on Parliament Hill.
2) He's unmarried
Along with John Baird, Jason Kenney, and James Moore, Wright was one of four <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/12/harper%E2%80%99s-single-white-males/" target="_blank">“single, white males”</a> profiled in Maclean’s magazine in 2011 as holding immense power in Harper’s inner circle. Moore has since tied the knot.
3) He's a big runner
Wright would apparently run a half-marathon each morning before starting a <a href="http://thewalrus.ca/mister-right/?ref=2011.04-politics-mister-right&page=" target="_blank">14-hour work day at Onex.</a> <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/12/harper%E2%80%99s-single-white-males/" target="_blank">He has kept that pace after he began working in Ottawa</a>. He is said to be fond of telling a story of once being surrounded by several snarling dogs during an early morning run - <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2010/09/28/travers_nigel_wrights_job_is_to_restore_order_to_pmo.html" target="_blank">a perfect metaphor for politics.</a>
4) Harper isn’t the first PM he's worked for
Wright was a <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2010/09/24/harper-chief-of-staff.html" target="_blank">speechwriter and policy adviser</a> to former prime minister Brian Mulroney. He was also <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/editorials/wright-you-are-mr-harper/article1380288/" target="_blank">policy co-ordinator</a> for Kim Campbell's leadership campaign.
5) He almost became a priest
Wright considered joining the Anglican priesthood as a young man. <a href="http://thewalrus.ca/mister-right/?ref=2011.04-politics-mister-right&page=" target="_blank">He is currently a subdeacon at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church in Toronto. </a>
6) He was the subject of a conflict of interest probe
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/08/nigel-wright-conflict-of-interest-chief-of-staff_n_2435040.html" target="_blank">The federal ethics watchdog cleared Wright of conflict of interest allegations in January. </a> Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson investigated Wright after it was reported he was lobbied on three occasions by Barrick Gold Corp, despite deep personal connections to the company’s founding family. Dawson found there was no violation of the Conflict of Interest Act.
Next: Wright Helps Duffy Reaction
Also, not for naught: what the hell is Mike Duffy doing with his money that he can't pay back his improper expenses?
Mike Duffy: "I stayed silent on the orders of the PMO." For whatever reason, the sentence just sends chills up my spine.
Mike Duffy is such an idiot. I wish Frank Magazine was still around to really savage him properly.
There's only one explanation - Wright expected SEX in return for his gift of $90K to Mike Duffy. Happens all the time. #cdnpoli
Welfare cheats are kicked out for $90 but PM Harper gave Mike Duffy Senate job and he cheated $90,000 #cdnpoli #HarperHistory #BadEconomy
Karma, Mike Duffy. Karma. #CutTheChequeNigel
This Mike Duffy story just keeps getting better and @RobertFife hasn't slept in 5 days!
The $90,172 Nigel Wright covered considered a gift that Sen. Mike Duffy will have to pay taxes on. #cdnpoli
Why didn't Mike Duffy mortgage his PEI house to pay for the $90,000 repayment? #cdnpoli #CPC #cronyism
Next: If I Had $90,000
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy you a nice fur coat, just like Tom Flanagan's (because that's cruel) #cdnpoli
#ifihad90000 I'd buy an economic action plan ad. Jk, those cost millions... like twenty!
#ifihad90000 I'd buy you a blue vest, but not a real blue vest that's cruel. And I don't actually wear vests, my warm centrist persona does.
#ifIhad90000 I sure in hell wouldn't be giving it to Mike Duffy! #Cdnpoli
. #ifIhad90000 I'd fund a War of 1812 #cbc miniseries that was historically accurate - and to be proactive, one on WWI as well.
#ifihad90000 I'd buy a mediocre journalist and make him into a senator.
#IfIHad90000 I’d have one of Canada’s search & rescue helicopters pick me & my pals up to go fishing
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy an Economic Action Plan ad, But not a real Economic Action Plan ad because that's cruel
#IfIHad90000 I’d buy property in PEI and I would actually spend time there too