Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Special Prosecutor in B.C. Rail case shirked duty to be neutral


Camille Bains,
The Canadian Press - undated

VANCOUVER — A special prosecutor investigating a police raid on the B.C. legislature is shirking his public duty to be neutral in the case, a defence lawyer suggested Friday.

Lawyer Michael Bolton said that special prosecutor Bill Berardino appeared to side with a former lobbyist who had apparently cut a deal with the Crown to testify in a fraud case against two former Liberal government aides.

The aides, Dave Basi and Bobby Virk, are at the centre of the controversial $1-billon sale of B.C. Rail and the raid on the provincial legislature in 2003.

“A special prosecutor is appointed to bring neutrality to the problem,” Bolton said. “It’s our view that he has done the opposite.”

Prosecutor Berardino arranged for an immunity deal with Eric Bornmann, the former lobbyist and partner in Pilothouse Public Affairs Group who has confessed to bribery.

Pilothouse was representing American company OmniTRAX, one of three bidders for B.C. Rail, which the provincial government ended up selling to CN Rail in November 2003.

It’s alleged that Bornmann paid almost $30,000 to three Liberal officials in exchange for government information.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett has heard that Bornmann confessed to bribing former government aide Basi, who along with Virk is charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting benefits in connection with the sale of B.C. Rail.

The Crown also alleges that Basi’s cousin, Aneal Basi, a Liberal communications officer, laundered the bribery money.

Bolton said Bornmann created false employment for Aneal Basi, who gave the money he received to Dave Basi.

Berardino’s actions allowed Bornmann to continue lobbying the B.C. government even after he’d admitted to the serious bribery allegations, Bolton said.

On Nov. 7, 2006, he wrote a letter to Berardino saying the special prosecutor was protecting Bornmann by not reporting the serious offences of a “self-confessed briber of public officials.”

Bornmann had applied to be registered as a lawyer in Ontario, and the Law Society of Upper Canada also sent Berardino a letter, asking for information about Bornmann.

Kevin McCullough, Virk’s lawyer, told court that Berardino replied to the law society in a letter dated Nov. 9, 2006, that he couldn’t provide any information when the trial started and that the allegations had already been published in media reports.

“That’s an interesting way that he has decided to discharge his special prosecutorial obligations,” McCullough said.

“Mr. Berardino never contacted the (law society). They contacted him.”

Berardino’s refusal to provide adequate disclosure to defence lawyers despite repeated requests, and his failure to inform the law society of the allegations against Bornmann are indicative of a deal, McCullough said.

“These are the kinds of deals that are only done on the downlow,” he said.

The defence team has been arguing in court that Bernardino has not fully disclosed all the evidence that he and police have compiled in the investigation. The reason, they say, is to avoid revealing information that doesn’t fit the case against Basi and Virk.

McCullough said Berardino has stonewalled the defence team on disclosure issues and chose to talk to Bornmann’s lawyer by phone, later saying he didn’t have any notes.

“It’s an absolute stonewall with respect to providing that information. He’s simply not doing it.”

Berardino also abruptly cancelled the immunity deal with Bornmann because he apparently didn’t adhere to the agreed terms, McCullough said.

“What terms is he talking about?” said an exasperated McCullough.

He said the deal was likely nixed because Bornmann made false statements to the media that he’d been exonerated by the Crown.

McCullough said the lack of disclosure from the special prosecutor fits in with the RCMP’s investigation, “tailored and targeted” on aides Basi and Virk and not on their political masters.

He has previously said police abruptly stopped investigating former finance minister Gary Collins, Dave Basi’s boss at the time. The police said no elected officials had been part of the probe.

Court has heard allegations that Collins offered OmniTRAX a “consolation prize” to stay in the bidding process for B.C. Rail to drive up the price. Collins has repeatedly denied the allegations. {Snip} ...

The big question is: Where is Bill Berardino?

Meantime, back in the Legislature ...
HANSARD Tuesday February 27, 2007, pm, Volume 15, Number 2

L. Krog: The former Finance Minister, Gary Collins, told this House that his meetings with Omnitrax representatives had nothing to do with the sell-off of B.C. Rail or the Roberts Bank spur line. New allegations cast those assertions into serious doubt. The allegations suggest that representatives of the Liberal cabinet and caucus set up the Roberts Bank spur line as a consolation prize for failed bidders. Mr. Collins was not the only member overseeing negotiations.

Can the Minister of Transportation confirm that other government ministers and MLAs sat on a committee to oversee the negotiations, and can he tell us who they were?

Hon. W. Oppal: This case is before the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The member knows that. A special prosecutor has conduct of the case. The member knows that too. Where the matter is before the Supreme Court and a special prosecutor has been appointed, it is totally inappropriate to discuss this matter in public. The member is a member of the bar. He should know better than to ask that question.

L. Krog: With the greatest respect to the Attorney General, members of this government are not currently under investigation. This is a matter before the public. In an information bulletin dated November 3, 2003, this government established a steering committee to "assist in overseeing negotiations." The committee was struck "to ensure the best deal for British Columbians."

Committee members included the current Minister of Education, the current Minister of Agriculture and the current Minister of Energy. Did that committee ever discuss the potential of the deal collapsing if only one bidder remained?

Hon. W. Oppal: However the opposition member may characterize his question, the fact is that when he's talking about B.C. Rail, he's talking about a matter that's before the Supreme Court of British Columbia. He knows full well that it would be totally improper for me or for any other member of this House, as lawmakers, to discuss this issue.

C. James: Within the application for disclosure, there is a long list of documents the defence counsel has requested. Those requests are now a year old, and the government has withheld the information from the special prosecutor.

To the Attorney General: why has the government refused defence counsel's requests to access information?

Hon. W. Oppal: The special prosecutor has advised us that it is not appropriate to comment publicly on any of these allegations that are made. These are allegations that are made by defence counsel. When the defence makes allegations of this sort, I can tell the Leader of the Opposition that the normal course of events is for the prosecutor to respond in court. That's where these matters are heard — in court.

Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has a supplemental.

C. James: I must state again that my understanding is that the government is not before the courts. We're talking here about very specific materials that have been requested. When this case began, the Premier personally pledged that the government would fully cooperate in the investigation. Now it seems that the government is withholding information. It's been over a year, according to documents, since counsel asked for this information.

So my question again to the Attorney General: why is the government refusing to cooperate? {Big snip} ...

J. Kwan: The opposition is not asking for the government to comment on the case. The opposition is simply asking the government … to release documents that would actually assist in that process with the court case. The Premier made a commitment. "The important thing is that neither the RCMP nor the government shy away from carrying out a thorough, complete and diligent investigation in the public interest." The Premier further said: "Obviously, it's troubling to everyone, but the important thing is that there is an ongoing investigation and that I've told
everyone to be as open and as transparent as they can about the entire situation, and I hope the RCMP will do that as well."
[Cue the maniacal laughter.]

The opposition is asking the government to live up to the spirit of the Premier's comments by advising the public who is ... representing the province with respect to the information that's not being released. Who is that person, and why won't the government release that information to the courts?

Hon. W. Oppal: As near as I can understand the question, the member is asking the government to release documents. We have a trial judge that does that. The application is before the trial judge. It's not before the government. It's not before us. We can't release the documents. That's entirely before the trial judge in the Supreme Court of British Columbia who's presiding over the trial.


There's an obvious reason why they're calling the B.C. Attorney General "Stonewally".

But what is the reason for the trial of HMTQ vs Basi Virk Basi now being called "The B.C. Rail - C.N. Rail Investigation"

Maybe Bill Berardino is with his friend Bornmann in Toronto working on a case!!
"Hon. W. Oppal: This case is before the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The member knows that. A special prosecutor has conduct of the case."

Really? Where is he? Ya coulda fooled me!

"Hon. W. Oppal: However the opposition member may characterize his question, the fact is that when he's talking about B.C. Rail, he's talking about a matter that's before the Supreme Court of British Columbia."

So we can't even talk about BC Rail now, eh? What if there is a derailment. I can see the headline

However this reporter was told by an unidentified source that it wasn't CP or the Burlington Northern. sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh Wally Wally Wally, go home and go to bed and deal with your other cancer, the brain tumor!!!

"Hon. W. Oppal: The special prosecutor has advised us that it is not appropriate to comment publicly on any of these allegations that are made."

Wally must be talkin' to Bill, maybe he could tell us where he is. Oooops, I forgot, it's before the courts.

No wonder I haven't been posting at the House, it's before the courts AND I'm spending all my ammunition here at your place Mary.

I rode from Lilloet to North Van on the BC Rail one time, oooops again, I can't mention that railroad!
I'm really looking forward to next week, I hope it isn't a big disappointment (except to the Campbell Cabal).
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