Former Conservative staffer Dion Ahwai has been charged with data mischief related to an investigation into the alleged theft of material from Erin O’Toole’s Zoom account during the 2020 leadership race, the RCMP announced on Wednesday. .
During the pandemic-era contest that elected O’Toole to lead the federal Conservative Party, his team accused rival camp of Peter MacKay to access and download videos which they believe contained sensitive strategic information.
MacKay’s campaign denied allegations of wrongdoing at the time and O’Toole’s leadership campaign referred the matter of the alleged data theft to police.
After the allegations were published, Greg McLean, a Calgary MP who supported O’Toole, fired a summer student in connection with the apparent offense.
But the O’Toole campaign said it detected several unusual logins to the account, as well as several uploads of what it called confidential information.
He referred the matter to the RCMP. National police confirmed to media at the time that they were investigating jointly with the Toronto Police Service.
On Wednesday, the RCMP stipulated that Ahwai’s “data mischief” charge relates to obstructing, disrupting or interfering with the lawful use of computer data, as contemplated by the Criminal Code. He also confirmed that the charge is related to the 2020 allegations.
Two sources with knowledge of the matter said the RCMP informed senior officials of O’Toole’s former leadership campaign Tuesday about the charge. They were granted anonymity because they fear professional repercussions for speaking publicly.
Ahwai did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent to his work email and via Facebook on Wednesday.
He is due in Ontario court on August 4, police said.
A spokeswoman for O’Toole, who was ousted as Conservative leader by the caucus in February, said he would not comment because the matter is before the courts.
Ahwai, a former House of Commons staffer, is currently appointed vice president of digital campaigns at consultancy Wellington Dupont Public Affairs.
The company also employs former MP Brian Storseth, who was campaign co-chair for MacKay’s 2020 leadership race, as a director.
In an emailed statement, Storseth said Ahwai was not employed by Wellington Dupont at the time of the alleged data theft and referred questions to the MacKay campaign.
Former MP Alex Nuttall, MacKay’s then-campaign manager and current candidate for mayor of Barrie, Ont., did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
According to records held by the House of Commons, Ahwai worked as a parliamentary assistant for Nuttall in 2018.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 13, 2022.