Thursday, June 08, 2006
Scandal has taken toll on Basi, a once-powerful figure inside the Liberal scene ...
David Basi worked in the Finance Ministry; police monitored his phone conversations and e-mails
Lori Culbert, With a File From Miro Cernetig
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
It was October of 2003 when police started listening to Dave Basi's conversations on his home, government and cellular phones, as well as monitoring his e-mails.
They were looking for evidence linked to a large cocaine and marijuana-trafficking operation between B.C. and Ontario.
What the RCMP say they picked up, while eavesdropping on the former ministerial aide to then-finance minister Gary Collins, was startling new information that led them to a separate -- and more high-profile -- investigation.
In late 2003, police raided a marijuana-growing operation in a Vancouver Island home owned by Basi that was rented to tenants. Basi's lawyer said later that his client was unaware that pot was being grown in the home, and charges related to that raid have since been stayed.
Soon after that, members of the RCMP's commercial crime unit stunned the province by raiding the stately home of the provincial government in Victoria on Dec. 28, 2003. Images of police officers carrying boxes of files out of the legislature dominated the news media, while a police spokesman said the investigation had major links to organized crime.
Among the offices searched were Basi's Finance Ministry digs, and those of Virk, then-ministerial assistant to former transportation minister Judith Reid.
Basi, now 39, was immediately fired from his $67,000 job, while Virk was suspended with pay.
Several other locations were also searched that same day, including Bornman's Vancouver home and the Pilothouse offices.
While rooting through Bornman's personal belongings, police say in the search warrant documents they found cheque stubs from Bornman's other company, Pacific Public Affairs Corporation, made out to Aneal Basi for "contract writing."
When they followed the money trail, police allege they uncovered 11 cheques payable to Aneal Basi and corresponding deposits of the same amount of cash into Dave Basi's bank accounts.
The cheques start May 29, 2002 and continued until Sept. 11, 2003, and ranged in value from $1,500 to $4,500 -- totalling $23,705. The search warrant documents further allege there were invoices totalling another $7,705 made out to Aneal Basi by Pacific Public Affairs in 2002.
Bornman was paying money to Dave Basi, the search warrant documents allege, in exchange for his "assistance in referring clients and ... on matters of government."
However, another set of search warrant documents, heavily edited before their release in September 2004, provide a small peek into the alleged bribery and kickback scheme.
Police say Dave Basi and Virk assisted OmniTRAX in its bid to purchase BC Rail by supplying information on the tender process, and in exchange may have received a benefit from Bornman because OmniTRAX was a Pilothouse client.
Bornman -- who was then communications director for the B.C. chapter of the federal Liberals and had worked as an organizer for former prime minister Paul Martin's leadership campaign -- may have recommended the two men for jobs with the federal government, police say.
The documents allege Bornman may have known that Basi and Virk's credentials had been fabricated or exaggerated on their resumes. Indeed, on Jan. 29, 2004, police executed a search warrant at the University of Victoria so the student records of Basi and Virk could be seized.
The document suggests Bornman recommended the two provincial aides in a list of names he sent to Mark Marissen, who was B.C. co-campaign chair for the federal Liberals in January's election and is the husband of former B.C. Liberal deputy premier Christy Clark.
The earlier documents also state police believed that Basi may have given information regarding Roberts Bank, a BC Rail spur line, to Bruce Clark, a federal Liberal fundraiser and Christy Clark's brother.
In March of 2004, Victoria scrapped its plans to sell the smaller Roberts Bank line near the Tsawwassen ferry terminal after RCMP investigators revealed that confidential government information had fallen into the wrong hands.
Bruce Clark declined to be interviewed Monday, but in the past has maintained he did nothing wrong.
More than a year after the drug investigation, Project Everywhichway, was launched, Basi was among eight people charged on Sept. 15, 2004 with drug-trafficking offences.
He was personally charged with production of marijuana and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, between March and December 2003.
It was alleged Basi conspired with Jasmohan Singh Bains and Mandeep Singh Sandhu to launder proceeds of crime exceeding $5,000 between Dec. 9, 2000 and Dec. 11, 2003.
Sandhu at the time was on the executive of the Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca federal Liberal riding association because he had been hand-picked by Basi for the position. He is a cousin of Victoria police Const. Ravinder Dosanjh, who was suspended with pay Dec. 15, 2003 in connection with the investigation.
Exactly one year after his suspension, Dosanjh was charged with wilfully attempting to obstruct justice for allegedly counselling his cousin, Sandhu, to "make false statements to law-enforcement officials" about the origin of money seized in a related police search of his residence.
Nearly one year after the raid on the legislature, criminal charges were laid against the three former provincial government workers on Dec. 21, 2004.
Dave Basi and Virk were charged with accepting a bribe as a government official, accepting a bribe from someone dealing with government, influence peddling, breach of trust, and two counts of fraud over $5,000. Aneal Basi was charged with accepting a bribe and breach of trust.
Court documents allege Virk and Dave Basi "recklessly put at risk the bidding process. . . for BC Rail in disclosing to interested third-parties confidential government documents and confidential government information including cabinet confidences."
Virk, who had been on a year-long paid leave of absence since the legislature raids, was fired immediately.
Aneal Basi was fired Jan. 17, 2005 -- the day he completed a health-related leave.
The lawyers for all three men have said they maintain their innocence. They are scheduled to go on trial in June.
And now Basi is facing a new separate legal dilemma. On Monday he was charged with three counts of "fraud on the government" and breach of trust for allegedly taking $50,000 for offering his help in an application to remove farmland from the agricultural land reserve.
The scandal has taken a toll on Basi, a once-powerful figure inside the Liberal scene who now has deep circles under his eyes.
"It's been extremely devastating," Basi told Global television's Victoria bureau chief Keith Baldrey on Monday.
"Just imagine one day you have a normal life with your family and you're doing normal things and then all of a sudden you know, someone flicks a switch, and your whole life has fallen into turmoil and you don't know what to do, what to say, where to go. It's just been very, very, very difficult for the family."
Basi maintains he will be found not guilty on all charges.
"I long for the day when I can go and I can actually clear my name and actually wake up and feel, almost, like a free man."
[Full story: http://working.canada.com/components/printstory/printstory4.aspx?s_id=H%2bYGeXGP1g8D8YWN5Y6BcrNdVW8Aq2%2fKeRH7MqbRW13HyDq0j1xvq%3d%3d ]