Complaint filed against ex-PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin over Wright-Duffy deal
A University of Ottawa law professor has filed a complaint against the prime minister’s former lawyer, who allegedly helped broker a secret deal between Nigel Wright and Sen. Mike Duffy, CTV News has learned.
Amir Attaran filed a complaint against Benjamin Perrin, who used to work in the Prime Minister’s Office, and Duffy’s lawyer Janice Payne with the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario.
The complaint involves two law societies because Perrin can practice law in both B.C. and Ontario, while Payne practices in Ontario.
Attaran claims that both lawyers “violated the ethics of the profession” for their alleged roles in the secret deal that saw Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, give a $90,000 cheque to Duffy to cover the senator’s ineligible expenses.
The RCMP is investigating the transaction. In an affidavit, Cpl. Greg Horton alleges that Wright broke the law by giving Duffy the money.
“If Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright engaged in an illegal deal – and that’s what the RCMP alleges – then the lawyers who negotiated that deal for them shouldn’t have done so,” Attaran told CTV News. “That was unethical to do so.”
CTV News caught up with Perrin in Vancouver, where he is currently an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Law.
Off camera, Perrin said his legal counsel told him to stay quiet.
“That’s the advice I got. It’s good advice. There’s good reasons for it,” he said.
The Law Society of British Columbia has already said that it’s aware of “information that has been reported in the news media” and will consider looking into Perrin’s actions.
According to a sworn RCMP affidavit, an email trail suggests Perrin and Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton were involved in the Duffy-Wright deal.
The affidavit also said Perrin’s emails from his time in the PMO have been deleted.
None of the allegations in the affidavit have been tested or proven in court.
Meanwhile, Harper continues to face tough questions in the House of Commons about the Duffy-Wright affair.
Opposition leaders demanded to know Tuesday why a number of Conservatives involved in the expense repayment scheme are still with the government, even as Harper publicly slammed Wright for his actions.
An RCMP affidavit released last week revealed that PMO staffers and senators discussed how to handle an external audit of Duffy’s expenses and a subsequent report by the Senate’s internal economy committee.
The affidavit also revealed that Sen. Irving Gerstein, chair of the Conservative Fund, allegedly used contacts at the Deloitte accounting firm to see if the Duffy audit could be squashed.
"Will the prime minister please explain to Canadians why Sen. Irving Gerstein continues to enjoy his complete confidence?" Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau asked Tuesday.
Harper has insisted that he did not know about the $90,000 cheque and that he would not have approved of such a scheme.
However, a recently released court document suggests the prime minister at least knew of an initial plan to cover Duffy’s expenses with a cheque from the Conservative party.
An RCMP affidavit suggests Wright checked with Harper before finalizing a deal to pay Duffy’s expense claims from the Conservative Fund when they were believed to total about $32,000.
In a Feb. 22 email, Wright wrote: “I do want to speak to the PM before everything is considered final.” An hour later, Wright wrote: “We are good to go from the PM.”
In the House of Commons last week, Harper said “good to go” meant “good to go with Mr. Duffy repaying his own expenses.”
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife