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Mac Harb, Patrick Brazeau charged with breach of trust and fraud 0

Jessica Hume. (Andre Forget/QMI AGENCY)

By Jessica Hume, National Bureau

OTTAWA — Former Liberal senator Mac Harb and suspended Tory Sen. Patrick Brazeau have been formally charged with breach of trust and fraud.

RCMP announced the charges Tuesday morning and confirmed that they "continue to work on other significant files," ostensibly those of other suspended senators embroiled in the Senate expense scandal, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy.

A special RCMP unit in charge of political crimes began investigating Harb over dubious housing expense claims filed for a property police said they didn't believe was his primary residence. During the course of their investigation, allegations of mortgage fraud also came to light.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said Tuesday the evidence did not support the mortgage fraud allegations.

The charges against Harb come only months after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau characterized Harb's inappropriate expense claims as honest mistakes and said he'd welcome him back to the Liberal caucus.

Harb, who was appointed to the upper chamber by former prime minister Jean Chretien, repaid more than $230,000 before retiring last summer.

Harb's lawyer, Sean May, told QMI Agency it was "positive they decided not to charge him with mortgage fraud" and described Harb as "more than ready to respond" to the charges and that he's "ready for court."

Brazeau - appointed by Stephen Harper - was found to have claimed more than $49,000 in inappropriate housing expenses for claiming his father's house in Maniwaki, Que., as his primary residence.

Brazeau's wages were being garnished after he refused to repay expenses deemed in a Senate investigation as inappropriate.

Both are expected in court at a later date.

Rob Walsh, a lawyer and former clerk of the House of Commons, said securing convictions on the charges could be a difficult task.

"The RCMP thinks they've got enough evidence to get a conviction, but the Crown has got one heck of a burden here," Walsh told QMI Agency.

Walsh says the charge of breach of trust of the Senate will be difficult to define, and even more difficult to prove.

"Or fraud against the public - how do we define 'public' here?" Walsh said. "There are a number of legal issues here the defence will exploit fully to their client's benefit."

The Official Opposition - which has no members in the Senate - said both Trudeau and Harper have much to answer for.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus called the "level of corruption" Harb engaged in "mind-boggling" and said the appointments of both Harb and Brazeau to the upper chamber showed a profound lack of political judgement from Liberal and Conservative party leaders.

Angus also said the charges raised questions about Trudeau's recent announcement he was booting all Liberal senators from his caucus.

"That could have been seen as a bold move maybe six months ago, but on the eve of a potentially damaging auditor general's report? We have to ask about what Trudeau knows," Angus told QMI Agency.

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