OTTAWA — Embattled ex-Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy faces 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
The charges stem from a lengthy investigation into Duffy's housing and travel expense claims and his repayment of those claims with a $90,000 cheque cut by Nigel Wright, at the time the Prime Minister's chief of staff.
"Today's charges are the result of careful examination of the facts," RCMP Ass. Commissioner Gilles Michaud.
A court date has been set for Sept. 16.
In a statement, Duffy's lawyer Donald Bayne said the 68-year-old P.E.I. senator will plead not guilty and is confident he will be exonerated.
"The evidence will show that Sen. Duffy did not want to participate in Nigel Wright's and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) repayment scenario, which they concocted for political purposes," Bayne said. "There is much that is offensive here. But the evidence will show that it did not emanate from Sen. Duffy."
Michaud told reporters the investigation focussed on Duffy's housing expense claims, his travel expense claims, "awarding of consulting contracts over a four-year period and subsequently using part of the funds for personal gain," and "the circumstance under which Sen. Duffy asked for and received approximately $90,000 from Wright."
Rob Walsh, retired House of Commons law clerk, said he was surprised by the bribery charge.
"The person charged has to have received a benefit with corrupt intent," Walsh told QMI Agency. "It means to act improperly with respect to an official capacity."
"I don't see what, in his official capacity as a senator, Duffy had asked not to do for the sake of the $90,000 cheque," Walsh said. "He was repaying the senate. Where's the corrupt intent in that?"
RCMP indicated last April Wright wouldn't be charged.
Ottawa criminal lawyer Leo Russomanno said there could be several reasons why police didn't charge Wright, including a lack of evidence to anything criminal.
Additionally, "if police had charged both Wright and Duffy together, Wright would no longer be a compellable witness."
The PMO issued a statement Wednesday, calling the allegations against Duffy "disgraceful" and that "those who break the rules must suffer the consequences."
"As this is now a criminal matter that is before the courts, we have nothing further to add."
Both opposition parties said the ordeal speaks entirely to the judgment of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Liberal MP Marc Garneau said Canadians have been "seriously shaken by the PMO scandal" and described what he sees as "alleged corruption involving the Harper Conservatives."
NDP MP Nycole Turmel said Harper showed "poor judgment" in appointing both Duffy and Wright to their respective positions and said she holds Harper personally responsible for the "culture of corruption" within his government.
"The buck stops with Stephen Harper."
Click below to see a timeline of the Senate scandal.