Thursday, August 10, 2006
The search, said the premier, is troubling
Police raids in B.C. linked to drug investigation
Last Updated Wed, 14 Jan 2004 19:28:12 EST
VICTORIA - Two political assistants have been removed from their jobs in British Columbia, less than 24 hours after police raided their offices in the provincial legislature.
The potentially scandalous investigation erupted into the open on Sunday when police raided the two offices inside the B.C. legislature in connection with a drug investigation. Now there is speculation the 20-month investigation could lead well beyond Victoria.
Police carry files out Sunday
B.C.'s biggest cash crop - marijuana - lies at the heart of this latest scandal.
Now, questions are being asked after it was learned that some of Prime Minister Paul Martin's most active supporters in B.C. were the targets of the dramatic police raids.
On Sunday morning, in the middle of the holidays, the RCMP and the Victoria police struck, carting off hundreds of files from the B.C. legislature. Those files came from the offices of two ministerial staffers.
One staffer is David Basi, a top aide to B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins and a senior activist for the Paul Martin campaign. The other is Bob Virk, another Martin activist who's an aide to B.C. Transportation Minister Judith Reid.
The raid at the legislature was followed by more in Vancouver and other locations in B.C., but all the search warrants were sealed.
The RCMP won't say what they're looking for, only that the raids are a spin-off from a major drug investigation and as a result of something they learned in a probe of organized crime involving big-time marijuana smuggling and the exchange of British Columbia pot for U.S. cocaine.
So far, 9 people have been arrested; 3 in Toronto and 6 in B.C. The Mounties won't say how that case led them to the B.C. legislature, but they said the drug trade is not just about biker gangs.
"The fact that $6 billion a year is generated by this industry shouldn't surprise anyone that many people are susceptible to being corrupted," said RCMP Sgt. John Ward.
CBC News has learned that another RCMP raid was carried out at a Victoria public relations firm called the Pilothouse Public Affairs Group. A partner in the firm is Eric Bornman, who also has a connection with the prime minister. He was director of operations for the Paul Martin leadership campaign.
Bornman is also listed as communications director for the federal Liberal party in B.C. He was not available for comment.
David Basi, the staffer in the B.C. Ministry of Finance, was fired on Monday. In a statement he said that he is co-operating with the RCMP and has done nothing wrong.
The other ministerial assistant, Bob Virk, has been suspended with pay.
B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says the search of offices at the legislature, and the ensuing investigation, is troubling.
"I don't think anyone wants this sort of thing to take place ever in the province ... I'd certainly rather that this was not taking place. But it is, and we're going to be as open and transparent as we can without jeopardizing the investigation," he told reporters by telephone while on holiday in Hawaii.
Do not laugh. This is no laughing matter. But holy catfish, did he really say that he was going to be "open and transparent" about the legislature raids??