Thursday, May 03, 2007

 

Corruption trial defence asks: Why immunity?

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Corruption trial defence asks: Why immunity?
Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun - Friday May 04, 2007

A defence lawyer questioned in court today the apparent immunity-from-prosecution deals reached with two lobbyists who allegedly bribed two government aides to leak confidential information about the privatization sale of BC Rail.

Lawyer Joe Doyle asked which was more serious: Not charging lobbyists Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran with committing criminal acts while billing OmniTRAX, one of the bidders for BC Rail, almost $300,000? Or nailing the accused Aneal Basi for "laundering to the tune of $20,000 to $30,000." {Snip}

The government aides, as well as Bornmann, were all involved in Paul Martin's Liberal leadership campaign in B.C.

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/story.html?id=5dc692da-1763-4620-9743-359a28992c85&k=94817

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SOLICITOR GENERAL 'INTERVENED' IN B.C. RAIL PROBE: LAWYER
MARK HUME
Globe and Mail Update - May 3, 2007

VANCOUVER — The solicitor general of British Columbia “intervened” in a politically explosive RCMP investigation by heading off police before they could interview one of the most powerful members of cabinet, the Supreme Court of British Columbia was told yesterday.

Defence lawyer Michael Bolton said an RCMP investigative team was set to fly to Hawaii to track down Gary Collins, then finance minister, the day after police raided the B.C. legislature on Dec. 28, 2003.

The police wanted to tackle Mr. Collins with questions about his trusted ministerial aide, Dave Basi, as soon as possible after the sensational raid, which generated massive news coverage in B.C. {Snip}

But Mr. Bolton said police decided not to go, even though they had cleared their Hawaii visit with the FBI attaché in Vancouver, after solicitor general Rich Coleman's office contacted senior officers.

“The government is concerned that Collins and Reid could inadvertently expose cabinet confidences,” said an RCMP briefing note on the solicitor general's concerns, which Mr. Bolton read in court.

“The solicitor general intervened,” said Mr. Bolton. “The solicitor general has become very involved in the investigation . . . [He's] making investigative decisions such as when to interview Mr. Collins.”

Mr. Bolton said police didn't take a statement from Mr. Collins until some two months later.

Mr. Coleman, who is now Forests Minister, rejected the allegation. {Snip}

But in court, Mr. Bolton read parts of a statement Mr. Collins gave police in which he said one of the first people he called when he heard about the legislature search was Mr. Coleman.

“I am politically astute enough to know that this is a really, really, really bad thing,” Mr. Collins said of the search. “So I managed to track down the solicitor general. . .[who said] it had something to do with organized crime.” {Snip}

The trial, which is giving glimpses into the backroom operations of the Liberals in B.C., has produced numerous allegations of political dirty tricks being directed by Dave Basi with the approval of Mr. Collins and top officials in Premier Gordon Campbell's office. {Snip}


Read Mark Hume's complete story at:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070503.wbasi0504/BNStory/National/home


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ALLEGATIONS PILE UP AS LEGISLATURE RAID CASE UNFOLDS

By Bill Tieleman
TheTyee.ca - May 4, 2007


B.C. Supreme Court has heard a litany of allegations since the long-awaited case of the Crown vs. Basi, Virk and Basi began April 18.

And Wednesday, May 2, saw some of the most dramatic allegations to date, including the defence citing wiretap evidence that former B.C. Liberal Finance Minister Gary Collins was directly involved in media manipulation and political dirty tricks.

Almost all of the information produced in the defence disclosure application to date can be assigned to one of five key areas:

1. The alleged abuse of political power by key members of the B.C. Liberal government and the B.C. Liberal Party;

2. The alleged political manipulation of the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail;

3. The alleged pervasive influence of lobbyists on the B.C. Liberal government;

4. The alleged connections between the B.C. legislature raid and powerful players in the B.C. Liberal party, the federal Liberal Party of Canada-BC branch and the Paul Martin leadership campaign;

5. The alleged abuse of the power of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in this investigation.

About the BC Legislature Raid Case

What is the B.C. legislature raid case?

Also known as "Basi-Virk," it stems from an unprecedented search of the B.C. legislature on December 28, 2003, that police at the time ominously linked to drug dealing, organized crime and corruption said to extend to the highest levels of government.

Subsequently it became clear the search was in fact connected to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail by B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell.

Two former ministerial aides -- David Basi and Bob Virk -- now face charges of breach of trust and fraud for allegedly passing confidential government documents on to lobbyists representing OmniTRAX, one of the corporations that bid for BC Rail. Aneal Basi, a former government communications aide and cousin to David Basi, faces money laundering charges.

The case has exposed the extensive political connections between the B.C. and federal Liberal parties, provincial lobbyists, the leadership campaign of former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin and even the RCMP.

The B.C. legislature raid case is currently in the pre-trial defence application stage at B.C. Supreme Court. The trial itself is expected to last six months or more and call dozens of witnesses, including powerful former B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers, political staff, lobbyists and many others. -- Bill Tieleman

And despite some media reports to the contrary, the mounting allegations add up to a case on its way to becoming a huge story with the potential to become a major political scandal.

The case exploded when police armed with search warrants carted materials out of the B.C. legislature and RCMP spokesperson ominously linked it to drug dealing, organized crime and corruption but in the years since then it has been regularly derided as minor and inconsequential, involving small-time, non-elected players in a trial that's been endlessly delayed.

As the allegations and evidence begin to pile up, however, it becomes clear this case touches everyone from former Liberal prime ministers Paul Martin and Jean Chretien to former RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli to B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell. And its search beam is illuminating everything from one of the biggest privatization deals in Canadian history to paid media manipulation and paid dirty tricks to top cops related to top B.C. Liberal party officials to provincial lobbyists with deputy minister pals.

Watchers of the unfolding case would do well to recall what the legendary Deep Throat told Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward in the movie All The President's Men : "You tell me what you know, and I'll confirm. I'll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that's all. Just... follow the money."

Basi and Collins transcript

Wednesday's court proceedings in front of Justice Elizabeth Bennett provided an object lesson in why the charges of breach of trust and fraud against David Basi and his brother-in-law Bob Virk and a money laundering charge against Basi's cousin Aneal Basi are so important and explosive.

Dave Basi was once the most powerful ministerial assistant in Victoria, serving as then-finance minister Gary Collins' eyes and ears. Bob Virk was ministerial assistant to then-transportation minister Judith Reid, while Aneal Basi was a young communications aide in government.

Then Basi and Virk were charged with leaking confidential government documents on BC Rail to lobbyists representing OmniTRAX, one of the bidders for the then publicly-owned railroad, in exchange for money and benefits.

But on Wednesday it was clear that Dave Basi was much more than just a ministerial aide. He was perhaps the government's key political operative, as well as the top organizer in B.C. for the Paul Martin forces in the battle against Jean Chretien for control of the Liberal Party of Canada -- and the country.

Late in the day, Michael Bolton, the veteran lawyer who is defending David Basi, quietly set off multiple sticks of political dynamite by reading into the record a wiretapped cell phone conversation between Basi and Collins on October 31, 2003.

The call takes place less than a month before the BC Rail sale to CN Rail is announced and as opponents to the planned deal are mobilizing against the B.C. Liberal government.

The call allegedly captures the type of media manipulation and political dirty tricks that have already been headlined previously in this case but this time Gary Collins is directly involved.

The following is a transcript taken from notes from Bolton's statement in court and is slightly abbreviated:

Collins: Hello.

Basi: Hi boss. Judith Reid was on Ben Meisner [at the time, a Prince George radio talk show host] -- she handled herself real well. There was only one call and it was ours.

Collins: Good.

Basi: Bill Vander Zalm will be on [radio] with Barb Sharp -- mayor of North Vancouver. [former B.C. premier Vander Zalm and Sharp both opposed BC Rail privatization]

Collins: Uh-huh.

Basi: I wanted to have the mayor of Squamish, who's a good friend of ours, rip Barb Sharp a new asshole. Is that okay?

Collins: Absolutely.

Basi: I called Jerry Lampert of the [BC] Business Council and said: 'Jerry, we need your help.' The Prince George Citizen might take an op-ed [opinion editorial article] but they don't want only positive pieces.

Collins: Well, you could do that....I want you to keep this completely to yourself because there's only two of us who know about this."

Basi: Okay.

Collins: I talked to the Premier. We want to put Colin Kinsley [mayor of Prince George] and the mayor of Squamish on the committee.

Basi: I'm going to call Ian Sutherland [mayor of Squamish] at home.

Collins: Uh-huh.

Basi: Then we're going to arrange calls and rip these guys up good.

Collins: Okay but don't tell Sutherland because it's the Premier who's going to call.

It should be noted again that the wiretapped conversation cited by Bolton is part of the defence allegations, which are unproven in court and to which the Crown has yet to respond.

Former North Vancouver City Mayor Barb Sharp was stunned when I called her Wednesday evening to get her reaction to the alleged comments.

"It's quite a shocker. I don't know what they were so upset about with me except that I was trying to keep BC Rail in North Vancouver," Sharp said. "It's quite inappropriate to talk about anyone that way -- what a terrible way to talk about people."

Collins’ lawyer and spokesman retained by taxpayers? ?

Victoria lawyer Clark Roberts has been in B.C. Supreme Court every day since the defence disclosure application began, representing Gary Collins and speaking on his behalf on several occasions to rebut defence allegations.

But Roberts left the court without speaking to the three remaining media -- myself for 24 hours newspaper and The Tyee, Rob Brown for B.C. CTV and Mark Hume for the Globe and Mail newspaper -- after Bolton's statement.

But Roberts himself disclosed some other interesting details earlier in the day, including that his fees for attending court daily from Victoria may be paid by B.C. taxpayers.

"I'm here to protect Mr. Collins' reputation," Roberts told journalists at a break in the proceedings.

When I asked if Collins is personally retaining him at his own expense, Roberts allowed that he may in fact be paid by taxpayers.

"Mr. Collins asked me to act for him but who is paying the bill is not clear at this time. I understand Mr. Collins has an indemnification as a former cabinet minister."

Roberts' role was actually raised the previous day in court by Virk's lawyer Kevin McCullough, who presented most of the aggressive defence case till Wednesday afternoon.

"In the case of Mr. Collins, he has a lawyer here every day. As best I can read in the newspapers, he's speaking for Mr. Collins," McCullough told Justice Bennett in asking that any witnesses for the subsequent trial be banned from attending the disclosure hearing. McCullough also noted the presence of an RCMP officer who will be called to testify in the trial as one of the investigators.

"There will be a ban from here on in -- any witness cannot be in the courtroom," Bennett ordered immediately.

RCMP: failure to communicate?

The RCMP's role in the Basi-Virk investigation also took a beating from the defence in the past few days.

McCullough made sustained arguments he completed Wednesday that the RCMP has "tailored" its investigation in order to steer it away from elected politicians and towards Basi and Virk.

But nothing he did could have helped his case more than an unexpected phone call he received on Sunday, April 29, from a man named John Preissell.

Preissell, it turns out, had contacted RCMP in January 2005 to offer information he had about the role of provincial lobbyist Brian Kieran in the case. And after speaking to McCullough, Preissell made a surprise appearance in the courtroom Monday to give evidence.

Preissell told the court in sworn testimony as the case's unscheduled and first witness that the RCMP "didn't seem too interested" when he contacted them about Kieran, who is one of the Crown's key witnesses against the defendants.

McCullough found that amazing because first of all, special prosecutor Bill Berardino had never disclosed the Preissell tip to the defence.

And second, because Preissell testified under oath that Kieran had threatened him over a planned public campaign against Gary Collins about Insurance Corporation of B.C. issues. Collins was minister responsible then and Preissell at that time was owner of an auto body and glass repair shop having "red tape" trouble with ICBC.

"The bottom line was he [Kieran] threatened me repeatedly and said if we didn't back off of Mr. Collins we wouldn't get what we wanted," Preissell alleged. "I was actually afraid, I was very afraid."

Preissell said that at the time of the threat in the spring of 2003 he was a member of a group of the Auto Glass Survival Coalition and that another industry group he had been involved with had hired Kieran as a lobbyist.

"Kieran offered to work for the Coalition for free to embarrass ICBC but not to embarrass the minister of finance," Preissell testified.

When I contacted Kieran and read him Preissell's statement he declined comment. "As per the past three years, I've been advised by my attorney that I should wait until I'm in court to say my piece," said Kieran, a longtime Victoria political columnist for The Province newspaper before becoming a lobbyist.

Railroading and the RCMP

Preissell's surprise appearance was followed by another surprise appearance the next day. The Crown discovered extensive notes of the tip received by veteran RCMP Sergeant Bud Bishop. And Bishop himself showed up in court.

However by the time McCullough had read Bishop's notes, he was barely able to control his anger.

"You've been hearing me repeatedly talk about the failure of the Crown and the RCMP to disclose," he told Justice Bennett. "These are comprehensive notes about BC Rail. They're not just about Mr. Preissell. Sergeant Bishop's notes were never disclosed in any way, period."

"But for Mr. Preissell phoning us, we would never have pursued this at all," McCullough said heatedly. "The special prosecutor has not met his disclosure obligations whatsoever."

It then turned out that Bishop's notes were indeed a treasure trove of information that included references to other public tips and mention of current B.C. Liberal Forests Minister Rich Coleman and former B.C. Liberal Deputy Premier Christy Clark.

"These notes contain details of conversations Sergeant Bishop had with a Terry Fergusson," about BC Rail issues, McCullough continued. Fergusson, he said, "complained about a flawed process, that he complained to Christy Clark about, that he was talking to Mr. Virk about the very flawed processes that were going on."

"Four MLAs wrote Christy Clark [or] saw Coleman," McCullough read from Bishop's notes. "He left out that Mr. Fergusson was having dealings with Christy Clark and seeing Minister Coleman. That begins to tell you, milady, how the B.C. Liberal government is operating."


This is a long article, well worth studying in full at:
http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/05/04/CollinsWiretap


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 CORRUPTION TRIAL TOLD QUESNEL MAYOR GOT CHEQUE
Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun - May 3, 2007

A driving school operated at the time by the mayor of Quesnel was paid $1,000 by a government lobbyist representing one of the bidders for BC Rail, a political corruption trial was told today.

Michael Bolton, the lawyer for one of three B.C. government aides accused of corruption, said the $1,000 payment was made by lobbying firm Pilothouse, which was representing U.S.-based OmniTRAX, one of the bidders for BC Rail.

A record of the cheque, dated Nov. 1, 2002, to Wallace Driving School which was operated by Quesnel Mayor Stephen Wallace was found by police in 2004 while examining $297,000 worth of Pilothouse billings to OmniTRAX, the lawyer said.

Police also found a note from Pilothouse partner Brian Kieran to an OmniTRAX executive that said: "Our friend understands where this [cheque] originates and he's grateful," said Bolton, reading Kieran's note in court. {Snip}

"This is a payment made to a public official with respect to BC Rail," Bolton said in court.

He added that another Pilothouse partner, Erik Bornmann, told police that many northern mayors were sympathetic to OmniTRAX. Wallace is no longer mayor of Quesnel. {Snip}

But Bolton maintained today that the payments to Aneal Basi were for work he did for the Liberal party.

All three aides were political operatives who had worked for the provincial and federal Liberals, including Paul Martin's Liberal leadership campaign in B.C.

The trial continues at the Vancouver Law Courts.

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/story.html?id=80f07219-af80-4fa8-892b-1f943eb5a944&k=7339


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MOUNTIES LIED TO GET SEARCH WARRANT, DEFENCE CLAIMS
Cops hid real reason from judge, premier, Speaker, says lawyer
The Canadian Press - May 04, 2007

A defence lawyer claims RCMP investigators lied to a judge, the RCMP commissioner, Premier Gordon Campbell and the Speaker of the legislature to get permission to search the legislature.

Michael Bolton told a judge hearing fraud and breach-of-trust charges against two former government aides that police sold Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm a bill of goods to get the search warrant in 2003.

Bolton said the RCMP were on a fishing trip when they went to the legislature with a convoluted theory that government aides Dave Basi and Bobby Virk and then-finance minister Gary Collins were enmeshed in a conspiracy.

"We have a complete case to be made here that the associate chief judge was deceived," he said. {Snip}

Bolton said the police told the RCMP commissioner, the premier and the Speaker of the legislature that the search involved drug offences and organized crime.

"The RCMP's own policy manual says the permission of the commissioner must be obtained before undertaking a search of the legislature," he said. {Snip}

http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=8cc2afc7-7dd5-4505-a128-c56e7ff8342b

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Comments:
Great article. It's justa after 7 AM today and I am anticipating a public statement from Collins. Probably just more non-denial denials. At the rate that this is coming out by you Bill, and the citizen reporters I expect that Campbell will be implicated by June first. So far we have three ministers implicated.
 
Nice guys!

Over the years I've wondered if it was possible to bring the practice of politics in this province any lower.

Clearly it was possible and the BC Liberals have done it.

We need to get the rest of this sordid story out - and maybe now the MSM will start to carry the ball that has, up to now been done almost exclusively by people like Bill Tieleman, Robin Mathews and BCMary.

It time for Keith Baldrey to stop carrying notes from the Premier to the camera each evening and do a 'real' job.

And it's time for the local CBC station to stop puffing up its reputation and get with the program as well.

These guys need more money?

You must be kidding - the Campbell Liberals should be refunding the money they've been taking on the false pretense of 'doing the people's business.'
 
And just imagine if this trial had started in a timely fashion in, oh say, Apr 2005 (ie. one month before the last provincial election).

Somehow I don't think that 'wedge issues served up on a silver platter' (ie. bogus claims of teachers holding kids hostage) and StratCon pushpollianism would have quite made the nut for the Dobranos.

Eh.

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Well done. It will be interesting to see if and for how long the complicitly silent MSM will want to remain increasingly viewed as an accomplice in all of this sordid mess.
 
lynx:

Funny you should say that. Gary Mason in his regular Globe and Mail column today, is saying "What's wrong with that?"

E.g., "So what if the finance minister of the day was trying to persuade one of the bidders for the rail line to stay in the process because he thought it would make the environment around the sale more competitive? The way I see it, he was just trying to get a better deal for B.C. taxpayers.

"And if he said, "Look, stay in the bidding process and we'll remember how you helped us when we put a coveted spur line to the Roberts Bank coal facility up for sale," what would be wrong with that?

"These sorts of promises are made every day in the real world. It's strange that the RCMP would think there was something corrupt about it."

Makes you want to weep, doesn't it? In Canada's most respected national newspaper.
 
Perhaps Mr. Mason is thinking of this thing as the selling off of assets of, oh say, a hockey team and not those of the public.


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Yeah, gazetteer, or a used car ... a very used car.
 
467.1(1) The following definitions apply in this Act.
"criminal organization" means a group, however organized, that
(a) is composed of three or more persons in or outside Canada; and
(b) has as one of its main purposes or main activities
the facilitation or commission of one or more serious offences that, if committed, would likely result in the direct or indirect material benefit, including a
financial benefit, by the group or by any of the persons who constitute the group.

It does not include a group of persons that forms randomly for the immediate commission of a single offence.
"serious offence" means an indictable offence under this or any other Act of Parliament for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or
more, or another offence that is prescribed by regulation.
(2) For the purposes of this section and section 467.11, facilitation of an offence does not require knowledge of a particular offence the commission of which is facilitated, or that an offence actually be committed.
(3) In this section and in sections 467.11 to 467.13,
committing an offence means being a party to it or couselling any person to be a party to it.
(4) The Governor in Council may make regulations prescribing offences that are included in the definition "serious offence" in subsection (1). 1997,c.23, 2. 11;
2001,c. 32, s.27.
 
And here are the Prosecution factors for that section:

(2)In a prosecution for an offence under this subsection
(1), it is not necessary for the prosecutor to prove that
(a) the criminal organization actually facilitated or committed an indictable offence;
(b) the participation or contribution of the accused actually enhanced the ability of the criminal organization to facilitate or commit an indictable offence;
(c) the accused knew the specific nature of any indictable offence that may have been facilitated or committed by the criminal organization; or
(d) the accused knew the identity of any of the persons who constitute the criminal organization.
(3) In determining whether an accused participates in or contributes to any activity of a criminal organization, the Court may consider, among other factors, whether the accused
(a) uses a name, word, symbol or other representation that identifies, or is associated with, the criminal organization;
(b) frequently associates with any of the persons who constitute the criminal organization;
(c) receives any benefit from the criminal organization, or
(d)repeatedly engages in activities at the instruction of any of the persons who constitute the criminal organization. 2001, c. 32, s. 27.
 
Hmmmm......

Can only wonder if, perhaps, Mr. Coleman know a woman named Martha.


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(as in 'Mitchell', not 'And The Muffins'; see CREEP/Watergate)
 
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