The RCMP is seeking more bank records as it investigates allegations that embattled Sen. Mike Duffy paid a friend $65,000 under a Senate-funded contract to carry out work that the Mounties allege “was of little or no value.”
RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton alleges in an affidavit filed in court Tuesday that Duffy hired the friend, identified as Gerald Donohue, as a consultant to carry out research and speech-writing work.
The RCMP is currently investigating Duffy, Sen. Patrick Brazeau and former senator Mac Harb on allegations of fraud and breach of trust related to housing and living expense claims that outside audits deemed ineligible.
In the affidavit, Horton said that a forensic investigator combing through Duffy’s financial records as part of that investigation identified some expenses “as requiring further review.”
“That investigation determined that Senator Duffy hired a friend as a consultant over an approximate four year period, and paid him a total of approximately $65,000 during that time, for little or no apparent work,” Horton said.
The contract in question covered a period between Feb. 23, 2009 and April 20, 2012.
When the RCMP interviewed Donohue, Horton said, he admitted that he produced “no tangible work product for Duffy,” and said that he was paid for “conducting Internet research and providing verbal advice.”
Donohue worked as a technician for CTV, CBC and other stations before his retirement in 1997.
Donohue told investigators that Duffy asked him to work for him as a consultant when he was appointed to the Senate. Donohue said he agreed, although he had never before worked as a consultant.
His job description included conducting internet research on topics that Duffy provided to him, “such as obesity, or being a Conservative,” and then “providing advice.”
Donohue’s job description also included speech writing and consulting on Duffy’s website. Donohue told investigators that although he would proof-read some of Duffy’s speeches, he never wrote one, and had never seen Duffy’s website.
According to Horton, Donohue submitted annual invoices for lump sum payments in 2009, 2010 and 2011. In 2012, he submitted monthly invoices.
Two invoices were to be paid to Maple Ridge Media Inc., the third to Gerald Donohue and the fourth to Ottawa ICF, according to the court documents. The court documents say Donohue incorporated Maple Ridge Media but never used it and changed the company name to Ottawa ICF in either 2009 or 2010. He sold Ottawa ICF in March 2012.
“Neither company has ever had employees,” the court documents say.
Donohue’s contract was paid for out of the general expenses portion of Duffy’s Senate office budget. Other items listed under “general expenses” included office supplies, postage, a coffee maker and “other consulting contracts.”
The Mounties are seeking records from two accounts at the Bank of Nova Scotia that Horton said Donohue used to deposit cash or cheques issued by the Senate. Investigators want to determine where the money went after it was deposited, “as Donohue claims that he personally did not receive any of that money.”
The affidavit also says that Nigel Wright, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, “provided investigators hundreds of pages of emails,” as well as a binder labelled “confidential” that included Duffy’s schedule from 2009 to 2012.
The binder contained printouts of Duffy’s electronic calendar from Jan. 2009 to Dec. 2012. The binder includes details of Duffy’s travel, meetings, social events and other engagements.
“The binder was prepared by Senator Duffy and sent to Nigel Wright in February 2012,” the affidavit says.
Wright handed the binder over to investigators “through his legal counsel” on Aug. 21.
The RCMP is currently probing a $90,000 cheque Wright wrote to Duffy to help him pay back ineligible expenses. The prime minister has said Wright acted alone when he wrote the cheque.
The RCMP is also investigating Sen. Patrick Brazeau on allegations of fraud and breach of trust, and is seeking banking information related to his housing and living expense claims.
In the affidavit, Horton provides details into the investigation of Brazeau’s residency claims in Gatineau and Maniwaki, including RCMP interviews with neighbours from his Gatineau home.