US & Canada

Canadian judge clears Mike Duffy of 31 corruption charges

Senator Mike Duffy, who is on trial for fraud, bribery and breach of trust, arrives at the courthouse in Ottawa, Canada Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Duffy faced bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges

A judge has cleared Canadian Senator Mike Duffy of all 31 charges in a corruption case.

Canadian prosecutors argued that the ally of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper kept a "slush fund" for illegitimate expenses.

Mr Duffy faced 31 charges, including bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and denied them all.

He was accused of improperly claiming expenses related to a home in Ottawa, the Canadian capital.

He was charged in 2014 and his trial had been going on for nearly a year.

It became a key election issue that hurt Mr Harper as he ran for re-election last year.

Mr Duffy argued that his expenses claims were within government guidelines for reimbursement of senators who live outside of Ottawa but have to have a residence there.

According to the CBC, Judge Charles Vaillancourt said the Crown failed to make a case for fraud, breach of trust or bribery.

"'Could Hollywood match their deviousness?" the judge said of former prime minister Stephen Harper's staff. "It is interesting that no one suggested doing the legal thing."

Mr Vaillancourt called Mr Duffy a "credible witness" with "no sinister motive or criminal intent".

The 31 charges related to the following:

  • Improper expenses related to the residence in Ottawa
  • Claiming reimbursement for expenses unrelated to Senate business
  • His alleged awarding of consulting contracts and using funds from the contracts for his personal gain
  • A C$90,000 ($83,747; £48,960) payment to Mr Duffy made by Mr Harper's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, for the purpose of repaying the government for improperly claimed expenses
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The charges relate to Mr Duffy's time in parliament

Mr Duffy testified for eight days as the sole witness in his case.

Some of the services Mr Duffy received by paying through his friend, Gerald Donohue, include a personal trainer and make-up artist.

Mr Duffy's defence lawyer, Donald Bayne, argued in his closing statement that the case was "thin" and "insubstantial" and called the prosecution "unprepared" for the trial.

He has claimed that Mr Duffy's actions were legitimate under Senate rules that were vague, and that he did not break the law.

Canadian senators are appointed by the governor general of Canada - the Queen's representative - on the advice of the prime minister.

They typically join either the government caucus or the opposition caucus, or sit as independents.

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