PHOTOS: Sen. Mike Duffy arrives at the courthouse for the final day of his trial in April 2016 in this screenshot. A couple of hours later he would look considerably happier. Below: Nigel Wright, Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff at the time of the events for which Sen. Duffy was criminally charged; Ontario Justice Charles Vaillancourt, who found Sen. Duffy not guilty of all 31 charges against him; and RCMP Sergeant Greg Horton, author of one of the two documents reported yesterday by the Globe and Mail.

Since when is the chief of staff to the prime minister of Canada a person of no consequence?

That Nigel Wright was an insignificant person, just a small fry scoundrel who might be useful bringing down a more important lawbreaker but otherwise not worthy of much attention, is what we are asked to believe by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in a 2014 documents reported yesterday by the Globe and Mail.

To say this interpretation of RCMP conduct in the force’s investigation of bribery allegations against Senator Mike Duffy strains credulity understates the matter.

It is certainly not the simplest explanation for the RCMP’s behaviour – and, as experience dating back to the beginning of humanity informs us, the simplest explanation is usually right.

The national police force’s story – outlined in the documents obtained by the Globe and Mail through freedom-of-information requests – is that the Mounties didn’t charge Mr. Wright for giving $90,172 of his own money to Sen. Duffy to pay off politically embarrassing expenses because they thought they could use the testimony of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff to convict the senator.

Anyway, the documents say, the Mounties doubted they could get a court to convict Mr. Wright and they thought Sen. Duffy was the more important target.

This explains – or, at least, provides an explanation – why the police charged the alleged recipient of the bribe but ignored the person without whom there could have been no bribe, a legal sleight of hand that boggled the minds of most Canadians who were paying attention.

“The decision by the investigative team is that it is in the public interest to secure convictions on the charges against Senator Duffy,” said one document, written by former RCMP superintendent Biage Carrese in April 2014 and delightfully and accurately entitled “Investigation of Nigel Wright Gifting $90K to Senator Duffy.” Gifting!

“Charges against Mr. Wright could in fact inadvertently weaken a case against Senator Duffy, who is the primary focus of this investigation,” wrote lead investigator Sergeant Greg Horton wrote in the other document uncovered by the Globe.

That much is certainly true. There can be no doubt Sen. Duffy was the primary focus of the Mounties’ efforts.

But the next claim quoted by the Globe – “it would serve the public interest best for Mr. Wright to remain an unindicted co-conspirator, compelled to provide testimony against Senator Duffy” – is harder to swallow.

We are informed the Mounties had considered multiple charges against Mr. Wright, including breach of trust and bribery. The RCMP explanation about why no charges were brought against the PM’s chief of staff would make sense only if they’d also decided not to lay any charges against Mr. Duffy.

In the event, the RCMP strategy obviously failed. On April 21 this year, Ontario Justice Charles Vaillancourt found Mr. Duffy not guilty of all 31 charges of fraud that he faced, and excoriated the conduct of the Prime Minister’s Office for “mind boggling and shocking” conduct.

“I find based on all of the evidence that Senator Duffy was forced into accepting Nigel Wright’s funds so that the government could rid itself of an embarrassing political fiasco that just was not going away,” the judge said in his verdict.

Obviously, when a high official in the service of the prime minister is suspected of bribing public officials or breaching the public’s trust, the public’s interest demands that it be dealt with thoroughly and forcefully!

How can anyone – least of all officers of the law – argue that letting such activities go unchallenged serves the public? This is preposterous on its face! Because Mr. Wright truly was a big shot.

The simple explanation – much more persuasive, although not necessarily true – is that the prosecution of Sen. Duffy was from the start politically motivated, done in the service of Mr. Harper’s Conservative government and intended to punish the senator for politically embarrassing the PMO.

The further decision of the Mounties not to question a notoriously micro-managing prime minister on the grounds there was no evidence he knew anything about the $90,172 payment evokes an organization with political objectives, not legal ones.

Alas, among a multitude of sins, the RCMP has a history of intervening in political matters on the side of conservative politicians. No one would be surprised if it turned out this had happened again.

In this case, the force’s explanation doesn’t quite pass the sniff test.

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  1. From the time delay the Globe must have gone through a lengthy FOIP appeal process with much lawyering. Do you think we could spend $5 and just ask for the docs referred to in the article? Since they have already been cleared through the FOIP process, they should just give them to us.

  2. The RCMP (via the odious Zaccardelli letter) assisted Harper’s slow coup during the in-n-out scam election.
    Now the Wright scandal (not the Duffy scandal eh?) is another example of illegal political activity.
    I’m sure it is the tip of the rotting iceberg.

    It seems the FBI was watching and learning (or were they teaching?)

  3. Let’s be clear, nothing about Harper’s administration passes the smell test. Yes, this is a story about the RCMP, but under Harper’s watch the RCMP was transformed into his own personal secret police.

    The sooner his hand-picked crony Paulson is removed as the head of the RCMP, the better. Only then can we dare to hope this fine institution returns to respectability.

  4. And then Nigel was whisked away to England, I believe. Being an “unindicted co-conspirator” doesn’t sound too good, though, does it? Sort of a “you squeal, we let you run away” position. So many of Harper’s associates ended up either under the bus or exiled.

  5. Harper’s conservative government tried to throw Duffy under the bus, like they successfully did to many others. They must have thought the older Senator with health problems and questionable ethics would either just go away or maybe go to jail. He did neither and he continued to haunt them as a reminder of all their bad decisions in this matter. In the end there were two verdicts – the judge’s and the voters and neither were good for Harper’s gang.

    As the old saying goes it takes two to tango and it was clear to the judge who was leading the dance here – the PMO. The RCMP would have been closer to the truth if they charged Wright instead of Duffy, but they might not have had the fortitude to see it through if in the end the facts led beyond Wright to those at the very top, so they decided to take the easier, but wrong path instead.

    1. The whole thing reminded me of the robocalls “investigation’ in the Guelph area, where the guy (whose name I mercifully forget) who probably engineered the whole thing was whisked away to the UAE or somewhere. Michael Sona, meanwhile, on whom the whole thing was dumped, has maintained his innocence to this day. He even spent more time in prison than he had to because a shorter sentence and being granted parole would have required him to admit that he had committed the crime. He didn’t. The poor guy even tried to kill himself at one point but an old round of ammunition in his gun didn’t fire.

      Michael Harris, in his piece on iPolitics, quoted Sona as saying:

      “[The Conservatives] don’t understand the depth of the hatred against them. It’s not just Harper fatigue. Social conservatism has been rejected. They need desperately to remake their party. Whenever people like Candice Bergen or Kellie Leitch open their mouths, people just remember why they voted the Conservatives

  6. This is very troubling. It sounds like we need another McDonald Royal Commission with really sharp teeth and the political will to follow through on what it will find.

  7. David they couldn’t convict Duffy of a crime so what crime could Wright have committed. It certainly isn’t a crime to make a big gift. Harper was the one that came down on Duffy and Wright gift made it so the taxpayers were reimbursed, even though the courts found the claims legal. We probably should say thank you to Wright and not crap on him.

    1. Well you have gone to one of my key points, David. As politically unpalatable as was his behaviour, the Mounties never should have charged Sen. Duffy with a crime. After all, as another reader pointed out, it takes two to tango, as they say. Welcome to the David Climenhaga blog, by the way! DJC

  8. Actually it is illegal.
    17. (1) Neither a Senator, nor a family member, shall accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the Senator’s position.

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