Wednesday, November 01, 2006

 

Police surveillance of former finance minister Collins raises puzzling questions.

.
Here's Vaughn Palmer, coming to grips with the trial of Basi, Virk, and Basi ...



... Looking on, as the two sides go at it, are a handful of reporters, trolling for even the smallest details about this extremely murky case....

 For instance on Tuesday, Michael Bolton, Basi’s lawyer, mentioned “a more recent taking of boxes of materials from the legislature that were not located in the earlier search.”

 That’s all he said. But it was enough to tip reporters to the episode recounted at the outset of this column ...

 Re: "The surveillance of finance minister Gary Collins attending a 16:00 hours meeting with Omni Trax President Dwight Johnson on Friday Dec 12, 2003 at the Villa Del Lupo restaurant in Vancouver.”

Now there’s a sentence that cries out for a few footnotes. Collins was Basi’s boss. Basi was already under surveillance at the time of the meeting...

 Omni Trax was one of the companies bidding on the purchase of the government owned BC Rail. The raid on the legislature is somehow linked to the sale of the railway. At the time of the Collins-Johnson meeting, the railway had already been sold (“leased” the government claimed) to CN Rail. But Liberals were hoping Omni Rax would bid on other rail properties.

 Why were police watching as the finance minister met with the railway boss at the upscale Spanish restaurant? Nobody said anything in court, but there’s no hint of wrongdoing by either man.

 The lawyers are back before the judge today and maybe they’ll drop a few more hints about where this case is headed.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Full column in today's (November 1) Vancouver Sun is on-line behind the subscribers' lock. A good column. As for the meeting between Gary Collins and Dwight Johnson of Omnitrax, readers of this blog will remember it as the subject of a challenge in the Legislature between Joy MacPhail and Kevin Falcon. It's recorded in Hansard and I believe it's in the archives of this blog. How did Ms MacPhail learn of the meeting? Wouldn't others have known, too?

- BC Mary

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Comments:
Can someone please post the Palmer column for us folk without the subscriber service.
 
Police Surveillance of former finance minister raises puzzling questions
By Vaughn Palmer/ Vancouver Sun/ Nov 1, 2006
Last Spring, a government staffer moving into a new office discovered a stack of documents associated with David Basi, the fired ministerial aide who was a focus of the police raid on the legislative buildings.

The discovery set off a minor panic in government circles. Basi’s office was the prime target when police descended on the provincial parliament at the end of 2003.

Investigators had carted away cartons of material. Vetting, to balance the needs of the investigation against concerns about cabinet secrecy and parliamentary independence, had taken weeks.

Charges were still pending against Basi and others in the complex case. The defence and prosecution had already clashed several times on questions of admissibility and disclosure of evidence.

Was this material that had somehow been overlooked during the raid? Was it protected by legislative privilege or cabinet secrecy? Were these documents that might serve Basi’s interest, or evidence that might be used against him?

After a flurry of consultations involving the premier’s office, the discovery was turned over to the attorney-general’s ministry, which in turn involved the police and the office of the independent special prosecutor.

The cache – roughly two file boxes, I gather – was subsequently vetted on the same basis as the earlier material, then delivered to the police. The special prosecutor reviewed the material, concluded it was mostly irrelevant to the case, but disclosed its existence to the defence, just to be on the safe side.

Which is how the episode came to light. For the defence was in court in Vancouver this week, arguing that the prosecution has not performed as well as it should have in making sure the other side is aware of all the relevant evidence in the case.

It cited the belated discovery of all those documents as evidence the police and the prosecution haven not been as thorough as they should be.

The defence is seeking an extraordinary order from the court: that it be allowed to look on as police and prosecutors review every scrap of evidence in order to ensure that the record is complete and up to date, nothing excluded.

If that sounds like a tall order, it is. The raid on the ledge and related police visitations produced well in excess of 100,000 pages of documents, according to the tally presented in court. A series of wiretaps contributed additional material.

Special prosecutor William Berardino insists the defence has already been provided with a complete inventory of all documents in the case. He offers to perform another inventory if need be. But he’s fighting to persuade the judge in the case, Elizabeth Bennett, to block the defence motion for closer scrutiny of the evidence.

Police have stored everything in two secure locations. Each repository includes material of exceptional confidentiality, such as the names of informants and material gathered from people whose lives may be at risk. Police argue it would be harder to recruit information in future if there was any chance that lawyers representing accused persons might gain any clues that would help identify them, even by accident.

The defence mocks this excuse and accused the prosecution of trying to duck responsibility for lax record keeping.

Looking on, as the two sides go at it, are a handful of reporters, trolling for even the smallest details about this extremely murky case.

For instance on Tuesday, Michael Bolton, Basi’s lawyer, mentioned “a more recent taking of boxes of materials from the legislature that were not located in the earlier search.”

That’s all he said. But it was enough to tip reporters to the episode recounted at the outset of this column.

Berardino contributed a few tidbits as well. One of his submissions mentioned the existence of a briefing note, “Re: The surveillance of finance minister Gary Collins attending a 16:00 hours meeting with Omni Trax President Dwight Johnson on Friday Dec 12, 2003 at the Villa Del Lupo restaurant in Vancouver.”

Now there’s a sentence that cries out for a few footnotes. Collins was Basi’s boss. Basi was already under surveillance at the time of the meeting. And the court heard this week how police, in the course of wiretapping Basi, sometimes picked up conversations with other users as well. One of those calls involved Collins and Premier Campbell.

Omni Trax was one of the companies bidding on the purchase of the government owned BC Rail. The raid on the legislature is somehow linked to the sale of the railway. At the time of the Collins-Johnson meeting, the railway had already been sold (“leased” the government claimed) to CN Rail. But Liberals were hoping Omni Rax would bid on other rail properties.

Why were police watching as the finance minister met with the railway boss at the upscale Spanish restaurant? Nobody said anything in court, but there’s no hint of wrongdoing by either man.

The lawyers are back before the judge today and maybe they’ll crop a few more hints about where this case is headed.
 
Hey Mary,

Great work as usual:

Are you thinking of the exchange between Ms. McPhail and Mr. Falcon involving meetings between then Minister of Finance Mr. Gary Collins and a Mr. Pat Broe of Omnitrax recorded in Hansard of Apr26, 2004 and brought back to life by you earlier this year here:

_____

J. MacPhail (to K. Falcon): When did the minister become aware that the Minister of Finance was meeting with Pat Broe, the head of Omnitrax, while the bidding process for the Roberts Bank spur line was going on? When did he become aware of that?

Hon. K. Falcon: The fact is, I'm not even sure when I became aware. I think I recall reading something in the media about the member's questioning of the Minister of Finance in estimates or something. I have some brief recollection that I read something in the media, but that would be it.

J. MacPhail: I just want to clarify. It is this Minister of Transportation who is responsible for the sale of B.C. Rail — am I correct? — including the spur line to Roberts Bank.

Hon. K. Falcon: The member knows very well that that's correct.

J. MacPhail: Okay, and he was the minister on March 3. When the Minister of Finance was asked questions about these private meetings with Pat Broe by a Vancouver Sun reporter, the Minister of Finance admitted that he discussed the Roberts Bank spur line sale with Pat Broe. He said, "Oh, it was inconsequential," but he did admit to discussing it. That's his interpretation. It was inconsequential — a private dinner between the Minister of Finance and one of the bidders on the Roberts Bank spur line sale while the bidding process was going on. The Minister of Finance admits that it was discussed at their private dinner.

Did the Minister of Finance ever tell this Minister of Transportation about the nature of those discussions? Did he ever declare that discussion in what's supposed to be an open and transparent bidding process, of which Omnitrax was one of the bidders?

Hon. K. Falcon: No.
 
Thank you!
 
Wally was on CBC TV at 6:PM today talking about wiretaps, how the police have to be careful ahout getting others conversations. Earlier he was talking about the delays in courtcases could cause judges to throw things out. If the police got one by misleading the judge and all that sort of stuff. As the AG he should be well away from the subject, as he is supposed to independent of the government. The Chief Justice had a few words to tell Wally, which he passed to all judges in BC. Wally started looking stupid the day he bemame a politician. dl
 
I heard Oppal's statement too.

Some AG!.

A public slanging match with the chief judge; not exactly the kind of thing that burnishes your status in the public eye.

Why is he even offering an opinion on wiretaps; especially wiretaps of politicians who are under police surveillance?
 
RossK, you are a genius ... thank you, and thank you!

DL, that CBC conversation with Wally is unbelievable, how could a lawyer/judge/Attorney-General get himself so involved in this case ... so early?

Oh. You don't think HE is going to be the reason for declaring a mistrial because he's been influencing public opinion ... so the accused couldn't get a fair trial?

Oh my.
 
You're most welcome Mary.

Point is, in my opinion you beat Mr. Palmer, who is one of the best of the bunch, to the punch by almost five months.

(and I've said as much over at my place).

.
 
Gosh ... it's hard to be humble now. Maybe, for a day or two, I'll just enjoy the feeling. Thanks, RossK.
 
I'm old enough to remember when being a car salesman was almost a requirement to serve as a BC MLA. Nowadays the fashion has moved to another "profession" that is considered questionable by many, anyone who has been paying attention will realize I am referring to those intrepid surveyors of the ethical wilderness - attorneys. Attorneys are obligated to represent the interests of their "clients," within ethical boundaries of course, though these boundaries and just where they are located are often the subject of their own court actions.

So after listening to the silliness emanating from Wally Oppal (attorney at law) our current Attorney General and the Chief Justice (also an attorney) and the bloviating that passes for hearings in the Birk-Vasi "case(?)" I'm beginning to think attorneys are spreading themselves far too thin.

Maybe Gordo the Great should start another of his ever so precious conversations with the plebes, discussing the place of the profession of the law in government. Perhaps election to public office should be grounds for disbarment (just temporary). My MLA is obligated to represent the interests of ALL of the constituents in my riding (he's not an attorney, we turfed that guy). Those interests certainly compete with each other, so it may be asking too much for a trained professional advocate to represent so many conflicting interests - without mis-representing some of his "clients."

Being an MLA is supposed to be a full time job (I'd like one with their hours and perks) so it's hard to see how even David Emerson (not a lawyer and an MP- I know) could practice law on the side while providing the constituents of Van-Kingsway with the standard of representation they have come to expect. After all we do expect lobbyists to take a holiday from lobbying while they sit in government. I won't get into whether or not they actually do so.

I'm not anti-lawyers, have employed them myself and count some among my friends. However from where I sit I see most people have less and less recourse to the law and our (the People's) government seems to become more obscured from public scrutiny by legal mumbo jumbo or lawyer's shop talk. Consider this along the lines of Swift's suggestion that the Irish eat their young - a seemingly extreme suggestion meant to generate thought and discussion.
 
Nary: CHeck this out Eric Bornman, aka Spiderman is the subject of a hearing to the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Despite the fact this guy has given sworn affidavits that he bribed government officials he is still a member in good standing of the Liberal Party of Canada, thanks to his good friend and former business associate Jamie Elmhirst who is still President of the BC wing of the fed Libs, and now this guy is set to become a member in good standing of the Law Societyt of Upper Canada!

Wow Spiderman really can spin quite the web with his connections!

November 21 and 22, 2006 ERIK BORNMANN
Proceeding Type: Admission
Stage of Hearing: First Hearing
More Details


http://www.lsuc.on.ca/regulation/a/current-hearings/
 
Kootcoot, so you would have lawyers who are elected to public office cease to lawyers while elected. Interesting idea. What do you think Mary?
 
Allowing politicians to remain lawyers actually perpetuates a higher standard of conduct than if they were required to let their license lapse.
 
What do I think? asks JM ... well, what I think is that it's outrageous that anyone should be admitted to the legal profession after admitting to police that he illegally offered a bribe to a public official which may have resulted in negatively affecting the "sale" of a public asset.

Holy smoke, is the Rocky Mountain barrier so high that Osgoode Hall doesn't know the first thing about Erik Bornmann (with two "n's" say they) and his starring role in the affairs of Basi, Virk, and Basi?

As for allowing lawyers to remain lawyers ... why not? Do we start going Neo-Con and trying to revise everybody?

And dammit, we're not going to start targeting another group now, are we? I hate that. Well, gee, you did ask.
 
Before pre-judging Bornman's admission to the legal profession, we need to think of what we're saying as a society about folks that come forward as witnesses.

We don't know what the relationship between this guy and Basi, Basi, Virk was.

However, it appears that without a witness there would be no trial. If we have no trial we have a successful coverup.

If witnesses are completely demonized when they come forward (and come clean on their bad behavior) there will be no witnesses.

The RCMP already this problem big-time with the Indo-gang wars in Vancouver. No one will come forward (even with immunity offered) and the number of unsolved murders and other crimes keep piling up.

Let's see what our witness has to say at trial before rushing to any conclusions about him.
 
Good point Mary,

That word "Neo-Con" sends cold shivers down my spine.

Point made :)
 
"Before pre-judging Bornman's admission to the legal profession, we need to think of what we're saying as a society about folks that come forward as witnesses.

We don't know what the relationship between this guy and Basi, Basi, Virk was."


By your standards the guy with no neck that came forward to testify against John Gotti is perfectly suited for admission to the bar, if he can pass the test. Maybe he should move to BC and be an MLA in his spare time, you know article with the REAL BIG TIME Organized Criminals.

It's not like Bornmann came forward as an innocent bystander who happened to witness a crime. He tendered the bribe, allegedly, and is only a witness as an alternative to being a defendant. Why he has that option is a whole 'nother kettle of fish, perhaps cause he's white or because he's a rat? I wouldn't know. As far as I'm concerned bribery is the type of crime the Legal Society should paricularly frown upon, it is a terrible threat to the administration of justice. Justice is already perceived as only available to those who can afford her. The only acceptable (and still smelly) circumstance in my ethical universe would be IF the police arranged for him to offer the bribe as a sting.

An MLA doing a proper job representing his constituents shouldn't have time to "practice law" on the side. As far as having a license to practice law in one's pocket being some kind of guarantee of superior ethical behavior, excuse me while I laugh. An elected member of a Provincial Legislature or Parliament supposedly takes an oath which obligates him/her to adhere to ethical standards at minimum as lofty as a member of the bar.

I agree with your thoughts about the Rockies Mary, and often wish they were just too damn high to get over at all, in either direction.
 
Kootcoot said: "It's not like Bornmann came forward as an innocent bystander who happened to witness a crime. He tendered the bribe, allegedly, and is only a witness as an alternative to being a defendant."

This is certainly what the defense is trying to have us believe. But it doesn't fit with what I'm hearing from other quarters, which is if Bornman didn't rat everyone would have walked. Either they had the goods on him and gave him a free ride (I don't believe the RCMP would do that) or else they needed someone to come clean (in which case some - though not very much mind you - credit is due).

We actually do not know what happened. I say let us see what happens at trial.
 
There's some good, clear thinking going on here ... I like it, even the parts I disagree with.

I think it's pretty clear that we know what Erik Bornmann did, since he ponied up with all the details himself, didn't he? Nobody's fabricating. Nobody's jumping to irrational conclusions.

Koot is dead-on, when he says the guy traded being a prosecution witness for the much pleasanter situation of not being a defendant. But that doesn't make him an upright citizen worthy of defending anybody's rights ... not until he's done about a dozen years of blameless public service. Ya think?

Koot makes another powerful point when he says that bribery of a public official is an offence upon which the Law Society should be particularly vigilant. And I don't want to hear any snickers from the cheap seats; either we acknowledge the expectations or we lose them.

Now about those lawyers who keep their licences while M.L.A.-ing. Don't those licence fees run to about $7000. a year? That should help them let it lapse, while doing other things, eh?
 
"But it doesn't fit with what I'm hearing from other quarters,"

He was just walkin' by and saw a bribing party and wanted to get down? Of course the RCMP would be willin' to give something, and apparently a little bribe of a few thousand or tens of thousands is hardly abnormal in this rarified world.

"I say let us see what happens at trial."

Let's hope there is a trial and it actually gets at what really happened, not some whitewash where a couple minnows get slapped and the big winners laugh while pushing their wheelbarrows of ill gotten gains from OUR stolen assets.
 
Kootcoot:

1. I meant if the cops had him cold they wouldn't have offered him immunity. If they had to offer something to get the testimony he obviously had a choice of either agreeing to cooperate or telling them to get lost. I believe the RCMP are professional enough to that extent.

2. I agree, at the end of the day BC Rail was turned over to private hands and I am sure that Basi, Basi, Virk aren't the new owners.
 
I'm not certain that Bornmann's admission to the law society of upper canada is a foregone conclusion.

The fact there are hearings is a red flag to me. Most articled students, once they've met the requirements and had a nominal criminal records check done are admitted without a special hearing.

The benchers are trying to decide if Bornmann makes the grade.

There are stages to the process - rejecting an applicant; I'd say it's almost a sure thing that there have been objections to his admission.
 
I agree, at the end of the day BC Rail was turned over to private hands and I am sure that Basi, Basi, Virk aren't the new owners.

I wouldn't really know, but would guess that the CEO of CN would be much more likely to have dinner with Gordo in either Maui or Kits, than Basi, Basi or Virk! I'm just pure guessing here though.
 
In regards to Bornmann...here is the relentless Joy Macphail asking a very interesting series of questions to Finance Minister Gary Collins:

J. MacPhail: Does the minister's political staff keep records of their meetings?

Hon. G. Collins: I have no idea.

[1505]

J. MacPhail: Well, how is it, then, that yesterday — and the minister used this to avoid answering in question period today — the minister was so sure that Dave Basi never had meetings with any of these people on B.C. Rail? How is that he's so sure of that if he has no idea who his staff are meeting are with?

Hon. G. Collins: I described for the member what David Basi's role was. She's made all sorts of inferences based on that, most of which — probably all of which, if not most — are not valid. Those are her conclusions. She can reach them, but she shouldn't put words in my mouth.

J. MacPhail: I'm not. I asked a question. If the minister says he…. Let's just see what this little network does. Lobbyists charge clients big bucks, thousands of dollars per month, to retain clients to lobby government. They list who they're going to lobby in government.

The minister says Erik Bornman never met with him. Erik Bornman doesn't list anybody else in government yet, although I understand he's been fired. He doesn't list anybody else. We can assume Mr. Bornman is not delivering what he promised, or he's not being clean with his clients. We can assume that, or Mr. Bornman met with somebody else in the minister's office on the B.C. Rail file. We can assume that too. It's one or the other, because Mr. Bornman has acknowledged that he was on the B.C. Rail file. The minister outed him yesterday in question period himself.

If we know that Mr. Bornman was working on the B.C. Rail file, because the Minister of Finance said so yesterday…. He's claiming he lobbied the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance says no, perhaps it could be his staff. Yet the minister hasn't got any idea whether his staff keep track of their meetings or not — none whatsoever.

On what basis is it that the Minister of Finance can assert he knows for sure nothing went on between Dave Basi and Erik Bornman?

Hon. G. Collins: I've never made that assertion. I've described to the member Mr. Basi's role as I know it and as I assigned it to him. Those are the questions she's asked from me. I have no knowledge of whether or not he met with Erik Bornman. I wouldn't know that. It wasn't something I was told. The investigators may know that. I don't. She's asked me questions; I've answered them. She takes this web and weaves it into something and then draws all sorts of conclusions.

Just because somebody registers under the act — the Lobbyists Registration Act — their intent to lobby somebody doesn't mean they actually end up doing that. They may find they don't need to; they may find they don't want to. They may find their client pulls away and don't want to achieve what it was they originally set out to. The Lobbyists Registration Act, which I might add was something this government brought in…. The same sort of procedures around the role of lobbyists existed under the previous government, except it was closed to anybody. There was no knowledge of that. You couldn't find any records of it.

We brought in, as part of our election campaign, a Lobbyists Registration Act. That's what the member has as information. It's far more transparent than what was there before. I don't ever once recall that member standing up in the House in the ten years we spent on opposite sides of the chamber raising the issue of lobbyist registration or any of those issues. I'm surprised by her new-found innocence in all of this.

The reality is that there is information there for the member. Just because somebody registers their intent to lobby somebody doesn't mean a meeting takes place. You can't assume that. All of the assumptions the member puts out before this House don't have a leg to stand on. She can't make that assertion. She has no proof of that. She's coming to wild speculations in order to move this along.

Now, I might ask the member if she wants to keep doing this. I'm prepared. That's part of my job. At some point we'll run out of relevant questions, and that will be up to the Chair to determine. There are lots of staff here from the Ministry of Finance who are very busy and are very skilled. That's fine with me if she wants to ask these questions. If she wants to do this, I'd like to send them away so they can do their other work, be-

[ Page 9042 ]

cause they have other work to do. Just out of courtesy to them…. She doesn't have to, but if she wants to give me some indication, then we can continue to do this, and they can go about their jobs. Otherwise, I'm perfectly prepared to have them wait here.

[1510]

J. MacPhail: The first time we debated legislation, this minister didn't want to answer my questions. He was quite insulting throughout the debate. Now he wants to know how quickly he can get through his estimates. Today I asked him how late we were sitting. He can't even answer that question. It's unbelievable, and now he's worried about his little role in the job. Honestly, Mr. Chair, we're at the second day of debate on estimates, and he is already getting frustrated.

The Minister of Finance said during the raids…. Just after the raids on the Legislature, when he flew home from Hawaii and then flew back, he said this has nothing to do with government — absolutely nothing. Today his story has shifted quite a bit. That's moved on today. He's admitting today he has no idea whether it has anything to do with government, so that's a different story — completely.

On the basis of giving the severance to Mr. Basi…. I assume that the severance was given to Mr. Basi on a discussion that there was cause or no cause and that whether there be cause or no cause must have been discussed with the Minister of Finance.

Hon. G. Collins: As I said yesterday, I was not involved in that decision. It was done through the Public Service Agency and Mr. Brown, whose role it is and to whom Mr. Basi reported.

J. MacPhail: Is it the minister's knowledge…? He's the head of…. I think the Public Service Agency reports to the minister. Does it? PSEC reports to the minister, and he's responsible for administration of severance. Sorry — is the minister not? The guidelines?

Hon. G. Collins: PSEC policy, as government put under Bill 66, is on the public record. As I said with regard to Mr. Basi, I was not consulted with regard to his severance.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home