OTTAWA -- The Conservatives' self-styled chief bagman contacted a partner at Deloitte allegedly to try to influence an audit into the Senate expense scandal, according to information in new court documents released Wednesday.

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OTTAWA -- The Conservatives' self-styled chief bagman contacted a partner at Deloitte allegedly to try to influence an audit into the Senate expense scandal, according to information in new court documents released Wednesday.

The allegations -- none of which has been proven in court -- raise questions about the independence of the audit into dubious housing claims of former Tory senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau and former Liberal senator Mac Harb.

"I'm absolutely baffled that this audit could have gone ahead in any capacity with the kind of interference that appears to have gone on," New Democrat MP Charlie Angus said in an interview.

The court filing from the RCMP alleges an effort to get Deloitte to drop Duffy from its probe, with the Prime Minister's Office arguing the matter would become moot once the senator repaid his ineligible expense claims.

In the court filing, the Mounties quote from emails that say the PMO asked Conservative Sen. Irving Gerstein, who chairs the Conservative Fund, to contact Deloitte to try to get Duffy removed from the audit.

RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton quotes a March 1 email from Nigel Wright, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, to former PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin. Duffy's lawyer had asked Perrin for an update on whether Duffy would be removed from the Deloitte audit, which had been ordered by the Senate.

Wright replied he did not have an update, but said he asked Gerstein to try to influence the outcome of the audit.

"Today I asked Sen. Gerstein to actually work through senior contacts at Deloitte and with Sen. (Marjory) LeBreton," Wright wrote to Perrin.

"The outcome we are pushing for is for Deloitte to report publicly that if Kanata (Ont.) were the primary residence then the amount owing would be the $90,000 figure and that since Sen. Duffy has committed to repay this amount then Deloitte's work in determining the primary residence is no longer needed."

Deloitte denies its Senate report was in any way influenced by Gerstein or his purported contact at the firm.

The court filing identifies Gerstein's Deloitte contact as Michael Runia. The RCMP interviewed Runia, who confirmed he and Gerstein have "regular contact" because Deloitte is involved in auditing the Conservative Fund.

Runia told the RCMP he was not involved in the Senate audit, the court filing says.

"He advised that Sen. Gerstein did call him and asked what would be the result if Sen. Duffy repaid the money," the document says.

"His response was he believed the auditors would still report, and note the repayment in their findings."

Gerstein did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

 

-- The Canadian Press