That question had a few people, including central figures in the Senate scandal, scratching their heads Thursday after the Mounties laid 31 charges against Senator Duffy.
Several senior Tories told HuffPost Canada they expected Duffy to be charged with falsely claiming expenses. But they couldn’t understand how the RCMP could charge him for accepting $90,000 from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright after the Mounties publicly said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Wright with giving Duffy the money.
“I don’t understand that, I just don’t get it,” said one senior Conservative.
“Cops are political, you know… Often times, there is really nothing to it but they just fill up the bucket.”
However several observers suggested that they know how Duffy can face charges while Wright was let go.
The Criminal Code states someone could face up to 14 years in jail if they’re a judicial officer or a member of Parliament who “corruptly accepts, obtains, agrees to accept or attempts to obtain, for themselves or another person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by them in their official capacity”
Anthony Moustacalis, the president of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, told HuffPost it is possible Duffy “corruptly accepted” money without Wright “corruptly” giving it.
Wright could have given Duffy the money believing he was paying back the public purse, while Duffy may have accepted the cheque for his own personal gain. And if Duffy did accept the money to enrich himself, that could be considered corrupt.
Past court decisions have defined “corruptly” as acting in bad faith in order to get around the law.
“That wouldn’t apply I guess [to Wright] if he believed that there was a proper purpose in giving that money and he wasn’t trying to get around any other rules,” Moustacalis said.
A 1991 decision of the Supreme Court found it was “possible to convict a taker despite the innocence of the giver.”
The real head-scratcher, according to law experts, is the “frauds on the government” charge.
The Criminal Code states that it’s illegal for a government official or employee to demand, take or offer money (or any other kind of benefit) to or from anyone who has dealings with the government — unless it’s approved by head of the official’s branch of the government.
University of Alberta law professor Peter Sankoff said he doesn’t see how the RCMP think they can get Duffy under this section.
“I honestly think they are kidding themselves. Seriously.”
Sankoff said this section was specifically designed to address people who have business dealings with the government.
“Nigel Wright has no dealings with the government,” he said.
Wright, at the time, was the government.
“The law is pretty clear, and the law says you have to have financial dealings with the government. It is designed to promote propriety in commercial dealings and he [Wright] has no commercial dealings,” Sankoff said.
Sankoff said it’s possible this charge could be dropped before the trial begins.
“Maybe they think they just don’t have anything strong enough against Nigel Wright... But if you throw everything and the kitchen sink [at Duffy] you have a stronger case.”
Sankoff noted that he is not in possession of any of the information that the Crown and the police have. But he said that the RCMP would have had to believe they had a “reasonable prospect of conviction of Nigel Wright of these charges, because that is all he is going to face.”
“With Duffy, you have all the charges already, so... he is going to trial anyway.”