The Niagara Falls Review

Senators charged with fraud

RCMP will continue to work on other significan­t files

- JESSICA HUME jessica. hume@

OTTAWA — Former Liberal senator Mac Harb and suspended Tory Sen. Patrick Brazeau have been formally charged with breach of trust and fraud.

RCMP announced the charges Tuesday morning and confirmed that they “continue to work on other significan­t files,” ostensibly those of other suspended senators embroiled in the Senate expense scandal, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy.

A special RCMP unit in charge of political crimes began investigat­ing Harb over dubious housing expense claims filed for a property police said they didn’t believe was his primary residence. During the course of their investigat­ion, allegation­s of mortgage fraud also came to light.

RCMP Assistant Commission­er Gilles Michaud said Tuesday the evidence did not support the mortgage fraud allegation­s.

The charges against Harb come only months after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau characteri­zed Harb’s inappropri­ate expense claims as honest mistakes and said he’d welcome him back to the Liberal caucus.

Harb, who was appointed to the upper chamber by former prime minister Jean Chretien, repaid more than $ 230,000 before retiring last summer.

Harb’s l awyer, Sean May, told QMI Agency it was “posi- tive they decided not to charge him with mortgage fraud” and described Harb as “more than ready to respond” to the charges and that he’s “ready for court.”

Brazeau — appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper — was found to have claimed more than $ 49,000 in inappropri­ate housing expenses for claiming his father’s house in Maniwaki, Que., as his primary residence.

Brazeau’s wages were being garnished after he refused to repay expenses deemed in a Senate investigat­ion as inappropri­ate.

Both are expected in court at a later date.

Rob Walsh, a l awyer and former clerk of the House of Commons, said securing conviction­s on the charges could be a difficult task.

“The RCMP thinks they’ve got enough evidence to get a conviction, but the Crown has got one heck of a burden here,” Walsh told QMI Agency.

Walsh says t he charge of breach of trust of the Senate will be difficult to define, and even more difficult to prove.

“Or fraud against the public — how do we define ‘public’ here?” Walsh said. “There are a number of legal issues here the defence will exploit fully to their client’s benefit.”

The Official Opposition — which has no members in the Senate — said both Trudeau and Harper have much to answer for.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus called the “level of corruption” Harb engaged in “mind- boggling” and said the appointmen­ts of both Harb and Brazeau to the upper chamber showed a profound lack of political judgement from Liberal and Conservati­ve party leaders.

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