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Given judge’s conclusions in Senator Mike Duffy trial ruling, Democracy Watch again calls for Nigel Wright, and PMO and Conservative Party officials who aided him, to be prosecuted for bribing Duffy

Group still planning private prosecution if RCMP and Crown prosecutors continue to fail to prosecute Wright and others

Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer must prepare rulings on Democracy Watch’s complaints about Wright and others to be released as soon as appeal period passes

Thursday, April 22, 2016

OTTAWA – Today, given Justice Charles Vaillancourt’s conclusions that Nigel Wright and others in Prime Minister Harper’s office (PMO) actions were “covert,” “driven by deceit,” “shocking” and “unacceptable” in a democracy, Democracy Watch again called on the RCMP and Crown prosecutors to prosecute Nigel Wright, and PMO and Conservative Party officials who aided him, for bribing Senator Mike Duffy.

Democracy Watch also reaffirmed its plan to pursue a private prosecution if RCMP and Crown prosecutors continue to fail to uphold the law and cover up the reasons why Wright and others have not been charged.

Democracy Watch filed an ethics complaint against Wright and other PMO staff with the federal Ethics Commissioner in December 2013, and that month also filed a complaint with the RCMP about PMO staff and Conservatives who assisted Wright, and a complaint with the Senate Ethics Officer against all the senators involved in the scandal.

Democracy Watch called on Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson and Senate Ethics Officer Lyse Ricard to prepare rulings on those complaints to be released as soon as the appeal period passes (if prosecutors don’t file an appeal).

Justice Vaillancourt ruled that Senator Duffy did not “corruptly” accept the $90,000 payment but was “coerced” in such a way that his “true will was overcome.” However, under the Criminal Code it is an offence to “directly or indirectly, corruptly” even “offer” any money to a member of Parliament “in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by that person in their official capacity” (section 119(1)(b)).

Justice Vaillancourt’s ruling quotes past court rulings (at p.258) that have highlighted that making such a payment secretly and manipulatively (which Nigel Wright did) is enough to conclude that the payment was made “corruptly.”

See details further below about why in Democracy Watch’s opinion Nigel Wright and the other PMO and Conservative Party officials should be prosecuted for paying money to Senator Duffy in return for actions by Senator Duffy, and/or also click here and here.

Democracy Watch has for the past two years been leading a national campaign to ensure all wrongdoers in the Nigel Wright-PMO-Mike Duffy scandal are held accountable for their wrongdoing.

Democracy Watch called for criminal prosecutions of both Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright for the $90,000 payment Wright made to Duffy when the payment was first made public two years ago, and launched a national petition that was signed by more than 33,000 Canadians calling for an independent prosecutor to be appointed to review evidence and make prosecution decisions (given the serious, ongoing questions about the independence of the RCMP).

Last summer, reporter Laura Stone (then of Global News) spent time with the public sector corruption investigation unit of the RCMP, and in her story the RCMP officers involved in the investigation essentially said that they decided for very questionable reasons to charge only Senator Duffy with receiving a bribe and no one from the Harper PMO with giving the bribe.

In Democracy Watch’s opinion, the key legal measure for the prosecution is subsection 119(1) of the Criminal Code, which prohibits even offering (as well as giving) “corruptly” any benefit to any public official “in respect of” any action or inaction by the official in their capacity as a public official (even if the official never acts). This subsection also prohibits the public official from even attempting to obtain (as well as obtaining) the benefit. And under section 21 of the Criminal Code, it is a violation to aid or abet anyone in violating any prohibition in the Code, and under section 24 it is a violation to attempt to violate any prohibition in the Code.

There are no past court rulings on subsection 119(1). As Democracy Watch’s December 2013 letter to the RCMP detailed, based on past rulings concerning a similar section in the Code (subsection 426(1)), Democracy Watch’s opinion is that to violate subsection 119(1) there does not have to be a “corrupt bargain” or a trading of favours between the person who offers or gives the benefit and the public official attempting to obtain or receiving the benefit. All that is needed for a violation is for the benefit to be given in a corrupt way (for example, in secret with a commitment to keep it secret), and for the benefit to be “in respect of” actions or inactions by the official.

The evidence in Corporal Horton’s affidavit revealed in November 2013 shows that at least three people other than Nigel Wright were involved in the secret negotiations involving offers of benefits, and payments of money, to Senator Duffy in return for at least three actions by Senator Duffy in his capacity as a senator. And the evidence shows that at least one other person was involved in attempting to obtain, and obtaining, benefits and payments of money for Senator Duffy in return for at least three actions by Senator Duffy in his capacity as a senator.

The secrecy of the negotiations and agreements between Nigel Wright and Senator Duffy; the attempt to change the results of an independent audit of Senator Duffy’s expenses; the resignation or firing of Wright, and; the agreement by many of the people involved to issue public statements that concealed that the payment had been given to Senator Duffy, and their agreement to mislead the public about the facts of the situation, is all evidence that the benefits were offered and given to Senator Duffy “corruptly”.

For all of the above reasons, Democracy Watch is requesting that the RCMP officials and the prosecutors involved explain exactly how they took into account the evidence and legal measures set out above in their decision not to prosecute Nigel Wright (and, by implication, others involved), and Democracy Watch will continue pursuing this matter until all the evidence and legal arguments are given a full public hearing.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign