RCMP investigating Nigel Wright’s $90,000 cheque to Mike Duffy

The RCMP has opened a criminal investigation into the Nigel Wright - Mike Duffy scandal.

On Thursday afternoon, the Mounties announced that they are investigating why Wright — the prime minister's former chief of staff — gave a personal cheque of $90,000 to Senator Duffy to repay taxpayers for improperly claiming living allowances.

"The RCMP continues its investigation to determine whether a criminal act has taken place," RCMP Corporal Lucy Shorey said in a statement according to the Globe and Mail.

"It must be meticulous and carefully consider, and examine all information.

"The RCMP would only lay charges when there is sufficient to do so. As such, we will not be commenting any further on this matter."

[ Related: Senate committee knew about Pamela Wallin’s irregular expenses 18 months ago ]

The RCMP investigation, however, means that Federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson must halt her review into the matter.

Dawson's office released this statement:

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson today suspended her examination under the Conflict of Interest Act of Mr. Nigel Wright’s involvement in the repayment of a Senator’s expenses.

Commissioner Dawson suspended the examination, as required by paragraph 49(1)(b) of the Act, when it was confirmed to her earlier today that Mr. Wright is also being investigated in relation to the same subject-matter to determine whether he has committed an offence under an Act of Parliament.

In accordance with subsection 49(2) of the Act, the Commissioner cannot continue the examination until any investigation or charge in respect of the same subject-matter has been finally disposed of.

The police are also 'reviewing' the false expense claims by Duffy and fellow Senators Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau. Earlier this month, the RCMP announced that they hadn't launched a formal investigation but were at the "document review" stage.

[ Related: Senator Mac Harb owes over $230,000 in improperly claimed expenses ]

Also on Thursday, proving that this is the story that keeps on giving, reports claimed that the Senate Internal Economy Committee have ordered both Harb and Brazeau to pay back the money they owe within the next 30 days. Brazeau owes $48,745 while Harb owes a whopping $231,649.

Both senators, however, have previously vowed to fight any such orders in the courts.

Meanwhile, Senator Pamela Wallin's travel expense audit will be made public sometime this summer while Auditor General Michael Ferguson begins the process of a full audit of all the Senator's expenses.

(Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press)

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