Thursday, January 17, 2013

RCMP investigating Conservative's campaign

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro remains the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary, although his role has been greatly diminished in the Commons since campaign finance allegations surfaced last summer.

Ottawa — RCMP officers have been brought in to help Elections Canada with two separate investigations into alleged financing violations in the 2008 campaign of Dean Del Mastro, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister.

Mounties from the Integrated Technical Crime Unit were brought in to analyze computer evidence in Elections Canada’s investigation of allegations of campaign spending by Del Mastro’s 2008 re-election campaign in his Peterborough riding.

In an application for a court order filed by investigator Thomas Ritchie in February 2012, the agency states that it believes that Del Mastro and official agent Richard McCarthy exceeded the spending cap on campaign expenses by more than $17,000 and filed a “false document” in their return.

Elections Canada alleges that Del Mastro reported spending $1,575 on voter canvassing and get-out-the-vote activities by Holinshed Research Group, but actually paid them $21,000 by personal cheque.

In October, eight months after seeking the court order for documents from Holinshed, investigators called in specialized RCMP officers to analyze and authenticate computer files — emails and invoices related to Del Mastro campaign transactions, according to a source with knowledge of aspects of the investigation

In August, he gave investigators a cautioned statement, meaning the evidence he gave can be used in court. His explanation of the services purchased in the campaign was at odds with electronic documents from Holinshed, which is why the RCMP were brought in to analyze the files, according to a source.

At least one RCMP officer is also actively investigating allegations of illegal donations related to the same 2008 campaign.

Last week, Inspector Paul Collins began knocking on doors in the Toronto area, hoping to interview donors who had given money to either Del Mastro’s campaign or to the Conservative Party association in his riding.

Collins and investigator Ron Lamothe are apparently looking into allegations first reported by the Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News concerning donations made to Del Mastro’s campaign by people affiliated with a Mississauga electrical company owned by his cousin.

A former employee of Deltro Electric Ltd. says company owner David Del Mastro asked staff members to recruit donors. They were paid $1,050 by Deltro for making $1,000 donations to Del Mastro’s campaign, said the former employee, who produced cancelled cheques and a sworn statement to back up the claim.

In addition to the $50 payment, those who participated were allowed to claim the $1,000 deduction on their tax returns, the former employee said.

Collins and Lamothe showed up unannounced at the home of several of the donors last week to discuss the donations, although it is unclear if anyone agreed to speak to them. The investigators were later contacted by Allan Kaufman, the Toronto lawyer who represents several of the the donors.

Kaufman says he repeated to Collins his offer to allow his clients to give evidence about the alleged donation scheme if they are offered immunity from prosecution for their involvement. Elections Canada legal counsel rejected that offer in the summer, saying only prosecutors could make that kind of deal.

Kaufman says he’s baffled why they have spurned his offer, saying he has offered the agency “a conviction on a platter and Elections Canada has turned it down, for the last nine months.”

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