OTTAWA — Crown attorneys are lining up a wide range of senators – including some who have not previously been named in RCMP court documents – to be witnesses at the fraud trial of suspended Senator Mike Duffy.
The law clerk for the upper chamber warned several senators over the winter break that subpoenas would soon be delivered calling on them to appear at the trial. As well, the outgoing clerk of the Senate, Gary O’Brien, is also to be subpoenaed, along with members of the Senate administration.
The subpoenaed senators will then have to decide whether to invoke their rights as parliamentarians not to testify at trial.
Mr. Duffy faces 31 criminal charges, stemming from his Senate expenses claims and a $90,000 payment from the prime minister’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, that is the source of two bribery charges.
The suspended senator has long maintained his innocence in the face of allegations from the RCMP that he filed inappropriate housing claims, gave $65,000 in contracts to a former colleague for little in return and redirected some of the money to paying a makeup artist for a photo shoot and a personal trainer.
It is also alleged that Mr. Duffy improperly expensed the Senate for personal travel to funerals and for days when he was campaigning for the Conservatives.
Some of the key senators in the Duffy expense drama have either been warned, or expect to be called by the Crown as witnesses in the case, including former government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton; Sen. David Tkachuk, former chairman of the internal economy committee; and Sen. George Furey, the committee’s deputy chairman.
Postmedia News has also learned that a small number of senators not named in the RCMP court documents – which outlines the case police were building against Mr. Duffy – are to be subpoenaed because they were with Mr. Duffy at a public or private event that is the subject of one of the allegedly fraudulent expense claims.
Those senators were also interviewed by the RCMP as part of its investigation, but did not have their names used in court documents filed by investigators.
Once the subpoenas are delivered, senators will have to decide whether to invoke parliamentary privilege as a reason for not testifying at the trial. That privilege means sitting MPs and senators do not have to unwillingly testify at a trial if it would interfere with their role as parliamentarians. (It doesn’t prevent them from testifying at trial if they are personally subject to criminal charges, however.)