Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Senator was complainant

Told RCMP of letter in extortion case

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MANITOBA Senator Don Plett is the federal official Chief John Thunder is accused of targeting in correspondence that resulted in the Buffalo Point chief's arrest this week on an extortion charge.

Plett's staff made the confirmation official Wednesday from his Senate office in Ottawa, marking the second time in as many days Plett has confirmed the report.

The story broke when RCMP reported Tuesday a federal government official was the target of Thunder's correspondence in an alleged attempt to interfere with a lawsuit over property taxes levied against non-native cottagers on the First Nation. The senator and his wife have a cottage at Buffalo Point.

Some 300 cottagers filed suit last January in Court of Queen's Bench, arguing the First Nation overstepped its powers. They objected to the application of taxes and the tax rates, which soared from about $800 in annual maintenance fees to as much as $6,000, one property owner says.

"The senator is in the chamber but he said I can confirm he was the official named in the Carillon," a staffer said late Thursday.

Plett told the Steinbach Carillon, his local paper, complaints over correspondence Thunder sent him were the focus of an RCMP investigation and the extortion charges laid against Thunder this week. Thunder is to appear in a Winnipeg court on Nov. 25.

The RCMP did not identify Plett by name in their announcement Tuesday.

That announcement only referred to an unnamed federal official who had no role in the investigation after the initial complaint to the Sprague RCMP detachment in July.

That the Manitoba senator was the unnamed target of Thunder's correspondence, however, was an open secret in the Steinbach area. The senator makes his home in nearby Landmark.

A spokeswoman for Plett said he was not giving interviews on the specifics of what Thunder wrote while the case is before the courts.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 24, 2013 A4

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