The fraud trial of Senator Mike Duffy will enter the final chapter on Monday, as Crown and defence lawyers are set to make their closing arguments.
He’s been on trial since last April for 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts against him.
The former high-profile broadcaster and Conservative senator testified that he never intended to claim for anything he wasn’t entitled to, but the Crown has argued that Duffy knew exactly what he was doing, and tried to get away with it.
Judge Charles Vaillancourt set aside two weeks for the final arguments from prosecution and defence.
The bribery charge stems from a $90,000 cheque given to Duffy from Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff. Wright testified that he wrote the cheque to repay some of the questionable expenses that Duffy submitted.
Legal analysts believe the outcome of the Duffy trial could further destroy the credibility of the Senate, and set a precedent for other senators who’s expenses are called into question.
Auditor General Michael Ferguson referred the files of nine retired and sitting senators to the RCMP last June, after completing a two-year review that flagged more than $975,000 in questionable housing and travel claims.
The trial, which generated plenty of attention during last year’s election campaign, included 60 days of testimony from politicians and forensic accountants. Duffy took the stand as the defence’s only witness.
The defence has argued Duffy did not intentionally break any expense rules, which have been described as ‘vague.’
Duffy, who’s currently on a paid leave of absence from the upper chamber, can return to his job with full salary and office resources if he is found not guilty.
If he is found guilty of just one of the charges, Duffy faces a possible imprisonment, as well as an automatic suspension from the Senate without pay and resources.
Even if Duffy tried to appeal a conviction, a suspension from the Senate would stand.