Tuesday, June 26, 2007

 

The day Bobby Virk's lawyer could barely control his anger

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Old news becomes new again in the light of information acquired or remembered. Didn't the name of RCMP Sgt Bud Bishop sound familiar? Well, so it should. Sgt Bishop was the first Mountie at the door of Glen Clark's modest home in East Vancouver, scaring Mrs Clark whose first thought when she opened the door to the police was that her husband had been in an accident ... but no, Sgt Bishop was there to search for ... [drum roll please!] ... lumber receipts for the Clarks' back porch ... [cymbals clash] !

For the raid on the Clark home, the Search Warrant was signed by our familiar Patrick Dohm who then "seized the case" ...

John Daly was the first media guy on the scene, right behind the RCMP ...

and our own Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett eventually presided over the Supreme Court trial that found Premier Glen Clark completely innocent.

It's like looking through an old photo album, the names half forgotten.

I hope that readers can find the time to follow the URL back to The Tyee and read the whole story. It's long, but it's a shocker.

Published only a month ago, Bill's report still blows our socks off; if anything, the revelations are more startling than ever. For example, the first Crown witness -- remember the guy named John Preissell who simply turned up in Courtroom 54 determined to tell what he knew?

And Preissell's surprise appearance was followed the next day by more surprises when the Crown discovered extensive notes about that tip received by veteran RCMP Sergeant Bud Bishop. And Bishop himself showed up in court. Then by the time Bobby Virk's lawyer had read Bishop's notes, McCullough was barely able to control his anger. Here are some excerpts:

WIRETAP SAID TO TIE COLLINS TO MEDIA TRICKS
Bill Tieleman
The Tyee - May 4, 2007
http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/05/04/CollinsWiretap/

... 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."

Christy Clark did not respond to a request to comment on statements attributed to Fergusson. It later turned out that Fergusson is executive director of the National Historical Railway Society, a group that sued BC Rail in 1998 over money it claimed was owed to it.

The missing notes didn't anger just McCullough. Justice Bennett had sharp words for the special prosecutor as well.

"You see the problem with this?" Bennett asked Janet Winteringham, assistant to special prosecutor Bill Berardino, who is absent from the hearing.

"Yes," Winteringham answered.

"As you probably know, I practiced criminal law for 15 years before moving to the bench 10 years ago. What you're telling me is troubling, that these disclosures are coming at this stage," Bennett concluded.

But that was far from the last thing troubling the defence ... McCullough launched into a multi-day attack on the conduct of the special prosecutor and RCMP in connection with their dealing with former provincial lobbyist Erik Bornmann, who is to be the star witness against Basi, Virk and Basi. {Snip} ...

During the current disclosure application stage, no evidence has been presented for the media or spectators in the public gallery to review.

But that hasn't stopped the defence from using the B.C. legislature raid case to give British Columbians its angle of view on the machinations of political power and the intersection of money, influence and government, even if only through allegations unproven in court.

http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/05/04/CollinsWiretap/


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Comments:
Thanks for that post Mary. The rcmp are out of control, the troubling linkages that have been uncovered in this case, and I might add most importantly of all, that the judge specifically mentioned in her recent decision have done nothing but reinforce in my mind the complete lack of faith I have in the rcmp and the "keystone cops" that ran this so called investigation. If I were debruyckere and his merry band of misfits I would be very worried. I would include in this band of misfits good ole gordo and his inner circle.
 
Kudos to the lawyer for the Bush family for going public with the blood spatter evidence that proves Constable Tester can't lie very coherently - since the coroner's inquiry would prefer to bury this information that doesn't conform to the "official RCMP" line!.

I know if someone was choking me to death from behind and I had a chance to shoot them I probably would, but probably not in the back of the head (in which case the bullet might come through and hit me as well).

The whole incident was tragic, but that is no excuse to ignore the truth just because it is "inconvenient." What's next, meter maids having to shoot people with expired meters - in self defense?
 
I was part of the jury selection pool today for this trial. The process took about 2 hours and after 130 people were called upon, 12 were finally selected. 2 alternates were not chosen because there was no one left. Although disappointed that I was challenged, I am also curious to the reason. I noticed on of the defense counsels notepads that ethnicity was part of the consideration. It was a very weird experience to hear about three people with good careers facing the accusations that they do. As each charge was read out I paid close attention to how the defendants responded. One of them always responded with a loud "not guilty." The other two had less emphasis on their "not guilty" responses. I was wondering if the proceedings would be open to the public? Even though I wasn't selected, I'm just curious to the see the evidence that the crown counsel will use against the defendants and their 14 indictments.
 
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