Disgraced Senator Mike Duffy is now facing 31 criminal charges, including fraud and breach of trust, in relation to his inappropriate living expenses, travel claims, and fraudulent contracts.
But he also faces a charge of bribery in connection to the infamous $90,000 cheque he received from Nigel Wright, the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The bribery count alone carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.
Wright secretly gave Duffy the money from his personal funds so that the senator could repay his disallowed expenses.
But if Wright gave the fat cheque to Duffy, at the time a sitting senator, why is Duffy now charged with bribery while Wright returns to the private sector?
It's a question many top journalists began kicking around on Twitter shortly after the charges were announced.
One possible question arising from Duffy charges: how is it Bribery, Fraud and Breach of Trust to take the $90K, but not to pay it?
— Terry Milewski (@CBCTerry) July 17, 2014
The big mystery at this point on Duffy charges: Why the charge of bribery of a judicial officer. Is this Wright?! Can't be.
— Glen McGregor (@glen_mcgregor) July 17, 2014
The bribery of a judicial officer charge against Duffy in the Nigel Wright affair is a brand new wrinkle....
— Don Martin (@DonMartinCTV) July 17, 2014
A source told The Huffington Post Canada's Althia Raj in the spring that Wright could be called to testify against Duffy.
But Wright and Duffy have presented wildly different views about what really happened between them. Another source involved with Duffy's legal team told HuffPost they have several emails suggesting Wright did not think the senator acted inappropriately.
What has Wright said about the cheque?
Wright has always maintained he cut the cheque to Duffy because he wanted the senator to reimburse the money he owed taxpayers. Duffy, however, couldn't afford to pay back the money himself.
So Wright, a managing director at Canadian private equity giant Onex Corp. before joining the Prime Minister's Office in 2010, picked up the tab from his personal funds.
"My intention was to secure the repayment of taxpayer funds. I believed that my actions were always in the public interest and lawful," Wright said in a statement in April.
"The outcome of the RCMP's detailed and thorough investigation has now upheld my position."
What has Duffy said about the cheque?
Duffy, however, says the cheque was all part of "monstrous conspiracy" orchestrated by the PMO and he reluctantly participated in it. The senator has claimed he believed all along that his expense claims were legitimate.
In an explosive speech to the Senate in October, Duffy said Harper's office simply wanted to snuff out controversy over his expenses to appease his Conservative base and wasn't interested in the truth.
"Don't worry, Nigel said, I'll write the cheque," Duffy recounted. "Let the lawyers handle the details; you just follow the plan."
Duffy also claimed at the time the Conservative party made arrangements to cover his $13,560 legal bill.
"One cheque from Nigel Wright? No, ladies and gentlemen, there were two cheques, at least two cheques," he said.
The prime minister maintains he knew nothing about Wright’s secret payment to Duffy.
What does Duffy's lawyer say?
In a statement issued Thursday in advance of the formal charges, Donald Bayne, Duffy's lawyer, wondered why his client would face charges over the cheque while Wright will not.
"I am sure that I am not the only Canadian who will now wonder openly, how what was not a crime or bribe when Nigel Wright paid it on his own initiative, became however mysteriously, a crime or bribe when received by Sen. Duffy," he said in the statement.
What do the Mounties say?
Gilles Michaud, RCMP assistant commissioner, announced Thursday that Duffy was charged with one count of "bribery of a judicial officer" in receiving the $90,000 from Wright.
Michaud did not take questions any at his press conference or elaborate further.
What does the law say?
According to section 119(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, "bribery of a judicial officer" involves:
- (a) being the holder of a judicial office, or being a member of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, directly or indirectly, 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, or
- (b) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives or offers to a person mentioned in paragraph (a), or to anyone for the benefit of that person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by that person in their official capacity.
What does Peter MacKay think about the bribery charge?
According to section 119(2) of the Criminal Code, proceedings against a person who holds judicial office requires the "consent in writing of the Attorney General of Canada."
As such, MacKay has signed off on this charge against Duffy.
At the Conservative convention in the fall — around the same time Harper was placing full blame for the fiasco on Wright's shoulders —MacKay made waves by breaking script and praising Wright as a "principled individual" and friend.
"He's somebody who is honest, he's worked hard for our party in the past," MacKay said. "That's my opinion, that's my view of Nigel."
Duffy will appear in court in Ottawa on Sept. 16. Parliament resumes on Sept. 15.
With files from The Canadian Press