Conservatives demand to know if prime minister used ‘loophole’ to avoid fraud charges

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still being dogged by questions about family vacations six years ago at the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas.

In question period Tuesday, interim Opposition leader Candice Bergen demanded to know if he used his authority as prime minister to grant himself permission to accept the gifts.

A provision of the Criminal Code says government officials can’t accept gifts from someone who has dealings with the government unless they’re given written consent by the head of their branch of government, which in this case would be the prime minister.

Internal RCMP documents show the force considered opening a fraud investigation after details of the trip came to light, but cite numerous reasons why it did not, including the fact that neither Parliament nor the ethics commissioner chose to refer the case to police.

If Trudeau did grant himself written consent, there would be no case for fraud by the government, the RCMP concluded, but the documents state that they did not know whether that happened.

When Bergen asked Tuesday whether Trudeau used that “loophole” to avoid being charged, he said no.

“The RCMP looked into this matter and no political interference was around it. They came to their own conclusion; there was nothing to pursue,” Trudeau told the House.

Bergen pressed on, asking if Trudeau would agree to do an interview with the RCMP about the $215,000 gift. He did not respond.

The ethics commissioner determined in 2017 that Trudeau violated conflict of interest rules, and that he should have recognized going on the trip would be seen as a conflict.

The commissioner’s report and the information used to compile it can’t be used as evidence in court if criminal charges did arise — another reason the RCMP chose not to pursue a case.

Trudeau is the first Canadian prime minister to breach conflict of interest rules while in office.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2022.

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