The Conservative Party of Canada originally planned to repay Senator Mike Duffy's improperly claimed expenses with party funds, according to documents filed in court by the RCMP team investigating Duffy.
According to a document submitted by Cpl. Greg Horton in Ottawa and published online Thursday by CTV, 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 contents of the documents were first published Thursday by the Globe & Mail, CTV and Toronto Star.
The court documents 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 and a letter from Wright's lawyers. At the time the court documents were drafted, Wright had not yet been interviewed by RCMP officers. Wright's lawyers were advised in June that a decision had not yet been made as to whether Wright would be interviewed as a witness or a suspect.
In an interview with the RCMP, Wright's lawyers said that there was no written contract with Duffy, but that Wright asked for two conditions from the senator — that he "pay back the money right away" and that he "stop talking to the media about it," the court document says.
However, Horton says in the court documents that this partially confirms his belief that "there was an agreement between Duffy and Wright involving repayment of the $90,000 and a Senate report that would not be critical of him, constituting an offence of Frauds on the Government."
The documents were filed June 24 as information to obtain a production order and sealing order, as part of the RCMP's investigation into the Duffy-Wright payment. The allegations have not been proven in court.
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, Harper's chief spokesman. "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 in an email Thursday, "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 claimed since his appointment. 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 reported Thursday that Harb will repay $51,000 in expenses as early as Friday, but he will do so under protest as he continues a legal challenge, arguing that the Senate denied him his basic legal rights and procedural fairness.
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