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Updated: Thu, 04 Jul 2013 22:38:53 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Conservatives initially offered to pay Duffy expenses, reports say



Conservatives initially offered to pay Duffy expenses, reports say

The Conservative Party of Canada originally planned to repay Senator Mike Duffy's improperly claimed expenses with party funds, according to published media reports that quoted documents filed in court.

The party was considering paying Duffy's expenses when it was thought they totalled about $32,000, but when the amount turned out to be more than $90,000, the party changed its mind, the Globe & Mail, CTV and Star reported Thursday.

The court documents, filed by the RCMP, reportedly claim that when the party realized Duffy owed so much, Nigel Wright, who was then the chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, offered to pay it back instead.

The information contained in the court documents came through RCMP conversations with lawyers for Wright.

Dated June 24, the documents were filed with the court by the RCMP to obtain a production order as part of their investigation into the Duffy-Wright payment.

CBC News has not seen the court documents.

The government initially said Wright gave Duffy the money as a gift.

After it was revealed that Wright cut a personal cheque to cover Duffy's expenses, Wright resigned from his post.

“I have offered and given my assistance to the investigation and I intend to continue to do so. I have no further comments at this time," Wright told CBC News on Thursday through his lawyer, Peter Mantas.

"The file was handled by Nigel Wright and he has taken sole responsibility," said Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "The affidavit is clear that the prime minister was not aware of the payment."

Reached by phone by CBC News on Thursday, Duffy said, "Sorry, I am busy right now and can't talk," before he hung up.

Conservative Party spokesman Fred DeLorey said, "The Conservative fund did not pay or reimburse any of the ineligible expenses."

Senators whose primary residence is at least 100 kilometres from Ottawa are permitted to charge living and travel expenses.

Duffy, who faced questions about his residency status in P.E.I., released a statement in April saying he had repaid more than $90,000 in housing and living expenses. It was later revealed that Wright had written a personal cheque to cover Duffy's expenses.

Duffy is not the only senator facing scrutiny over expenses. Mac Harb, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau have also had their expenses examined.

CBC News has reported that Harb will repay $51,000 in expenses as early as Friday, but he will do so under protest as he continues his legal challenge, arguing that the Senate denied him his basic legal rights and procedural fairness.

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