Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Ravinder Dosanjh on trial, uncovered by investigations that led to the Legislature raid
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
"Oh, god," a Victoria police detective sighed when accused of being partners with his cousin in a drug-trafficking organization uncovered by a skein of investigations that culminated with the raid on the B.C. legislature.
In a dramatic and riveting video recording made by the RCMP anti-corruption squad, Const. Ravinder (Rob) Dosanjh looked wan and drained when confronted with the results of a six-month investigation into his family ties and honesty.
He steadfastly maintained throughout the Dec. 15, 2003 interview with RCMP Insp. Don Adam that he did not compromise any case or leak information to his relative, accused drug-dealer, Mandeep Singh Sandhu.
"I'm not involved," Dosanjh stammered. "I know the difference between right and wrong. At least I think I do. I see what you got. It's not looking good."
He appeared devastated by the accusations.
This is the first of several trials that are in the judicial pipeline as a result of what is described as "a monster" of connected but independent investigations 21/2 years ago that triggered the unprecedented search of provincial government offices on Dec. 28, 2003.
Sandhu's home was raided Dec. 9, 2003, and he and eight others face federal drug conspiracy charges involving cross-border trafficking. Six days later, Dosanjh was arrested and suspended from his job with pay. A year later he was charged and fired.
Two weeks after Dosanjh was arrested, police, in an unprecedented move, executed warrants on the parliamentary precincts.
They charged Dave Basi, former ministerial assistant to former finance minister Gary Collins, in connection with the drug investigation and another separate breach of trust inquiry. Also charged in the influence-peddling case was Bob Virk, an assistant to then transportation minister Judith Reid.
Those trials are slated for later this year.
Tuesday, in the second day of his trial in Vancouver for obstruction of justice, Dosanjh sat glumly, his chin in his left hand, reading a transcript of the video as it played.
His wife Satnam sat in the front row of the small, deserted public gallery stoically doing the same.
Dosanjh appeared shattered throughout the interview.
From all accounts, he was a well-respected, exemplary police officer for 13 years.
He voluntarily agreed to the lengthy taped interrogation.
The video recording was played as part of a voir dire -- a trial within a trial, being conducted by Provincial Court Judge Carol Baird Ellan to determine if it is admissible as evidence.
Dosanjh maintained throughout that he was nothing more than a concerned relative trying to help his younger cousin escape a criminal lifestyle: If he made mistakes in judgment, they were because he faced a dilemma between familial loyalty and public duty.
During their meeting, though, Adam evoked from the surveillance and surreptitiously recorded conversations a more sinister picture.
Among the points in the prosecution's case is the fact that Dosanjh did not come forward and tell his colleagues he was related to someone they had in their sights.
"I don't know why I didn't tell anyone," he muttered.
In the eyes of the investigators, Dosanjh was less the well-meaning cousin and more a would-be consigliere providing advice on what to tell investigators, warnings not to talk on tapped telephones and providing a key tip about an impending raid.
"You loved [Sandhu] and you were trying to protect him," Adam said. "That's bad judgment, but you went further when you alerted him the search was coming."
The Mounties had deliberately fed Dosanjh false information about a looming, supposedly American-led raid on Sandhu's drug business in the hope of flushing out a dirty cop.
Within days, the prosecution says the Victoria constable called his cousin and afterwards Sandhu began dismantling grow-operations and apparently destroying evidence.
"You told him about the pending search," averred Adam, a 32-year veteran of the RCMP who is an interrogation specialist brought in to close cases.
"I did not say that," Dosanjh insisted, shaking his head and casting his eyes to the floor. "I did not tell him."
Still, Dosanjh looked more and more devastated as the interview wore on. "There's a lot of things that make me look wrong in this but at no time was I trying to stop him being investigated or charged with anything," he pleaded.
The intercepted communications suggested otherwise. After Sandhu's arrest, for instance, there was a flurry of phone calls and in one Dosanjh told Sandhu to claim the $35,000 they found in his home belonged to his dad.
"I don't think I crossed over," Dosanjh said. "I look like an idiot, it looks real bad."
"I don't want to play cat and mouse with you," Adam said incredulously. "I want you to come out of this with face, some pride. . . . You gave him that info. You did."
Dosanjh shook his head.
"Do you see what's happened to you?" Adam continued. "Mandeep has systematically used you."
"I see that now," Dosanjh acknowledged.
"Does any of that sound like good straight-up policing?" Adam asked.
"No, it doesn't," Dosanjh whispered.
"This [$35,000] is drug money he's talking about, and you're talking about it," Adam added.
Dosanjh choked up and, for a moment, it appeared he was going to break down emotionally.
"You okay?" the empathetic Mountie asked.
"I'm fine," Dosanjh replied. "It's probably drug money." He paused, then conceded: "I'm sure it's drug money."
"This sounds like you're partners," Adam said. "It's criminal is what it is. . . . Full partners' discussion, that's what this is. . . . It's beyond stupid."
Dosanjh said: "My head's spinning right now trying to recall. I would not tell [Sandhu] about a search warrant and jeopardize an investigation like that."
Adam held out the transcripts of the intercepted conversations and the two stared at them silently.
"You've been used," Adam concluded. "But you allowed yourself to be used and as we sit here we both know you crossed the line . . . . There is no doubt in my mind that you stepped into that criminal arena and breached your public trust."
"I thought I was helping him. . . . I'm not involved with these guys," Dosanjh pleaded. "I'm not making money off them. . . . I did not tell them about the search warrant -- I'd never do that. I'm not a crooked cop. There are no payoffs or anything like that."
"[The investigators] do know, trust me," he assured him.
"They're going to prove it. . . . The mistakes you made were small steps that led you into obstruction and doing wrong."
He stood up, ending the interview by extending his hand.
"Anyway, good luck, you take care," Adam said.
The trial continues.
© The Vancouver Sun 2006