Friday, October 26, 2007
Courting disaster: an hour in Courtroom 64. Today's media bombshell.
By Robin Mathews
The Corrupt Sale of B.C. Rail by the Gordon Campbell Cabinet (Basi, Virk and Basi pretrial hearing). Today's "media bombshell".
On Hastings Street a maple tree up against Harbour Centre is all green and gold, riddled with Autumn sunlight. At Carrall and Hastings the North Shore Mountains in view are hard blue, only dandruffed with snow at their highest points. Seagulls circle in sunlight. About 80 dumpster-divers and associates move around outside the Bottle Depot and Potter's Place Mission. Did Jesus say: "I am the potter, you are the clay"? On the bus a late twenties, handsome, white male breaks into song, a lyrical, haunting Chinese melody... in lyrical, haunting Chinese. Unaffectedly good natured, he smiles at the elderly Chinese ladies on the bus. They smile back, unaffectedly good natured, and clap when he finishes singing. The people....
In Courtroom 64, a small courtroom, 9:00 a.m., the usual eight to ten lawyers sit - with three "interveners" - one for the B.C. Government, and one for B.C. Rail- they in the jury section, and, I believe, a member of the Defence team. In the gallery are a scattering of journalists, a journalism student "on assignment" from one of the colleges, the NDP Justice critic - about seven or eight people in all.
The pre-trial hearing is a "progress report" on disclosure matters for one hour, a trial to occupy the room after 10:00 a.m. So hurry up....
Contestation is the order of the day. Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett wants things to go well. Move on. She understands things "have taken a long time". She wants to move on with the "matters [that] can go ahead" on December 3.
But the Defence, in the person of Kevan McCullough, has criticisms. We have heard some of them before. The new ones are deeply disturbing. 25,000 pages of disclosure material that contains probably 4000- 6000 pages of RCMP officer "continuation notes" were delivered to Defence only a few days ago (with more to come). That kind of news is, by now, not a huge surprise. Some necessary materials are still not made available, defence asserts. McCullough states the Crown has not complied with the orders of Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett.
Who is delaying? Is anyone? McCullough suggests the Special Crown Prosecutor has delayed. Berardino - Special Crown Prosecutor - intervenes, demands right of reply to any such allegations. Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett says she won't hear argument on the matters now. McCullough insists the just-arrived material must be assessed before anything can be said about "matters [that] can go ahead".
Disturbing: among hard copy summaries of disclosure material that have surfaced is reference to electronic material that doesn't exist, that no one can find. (three and a half years have passed in which material can be "lost" accidentally or by someone's design).
Some vetted material seems to have been vetted for inexplicable reason. B.C. Rail material that has been "vetted" (cleaned to prevent privileged or other like material being shown) is not validly vetted, it is alleged. Why are crucial documents not disclosed? How does Defence get at it? Mr. Dean, representing B.C. Rail, states the corporation believes it has done all well and all it's going to do. (?)
Disturbing, and part of the bombshell: delays open suspicions in the minds of Defence. That fact is only significant as being stated on the record. Suspicion is, and has been, the ruling condition of the pre-trial hearings.
Disturbing, and the main part of the bombshell: part of the material that must be absolutely clearly examined and processed, says McCullough "may impact on certain cabinet ministers". That information must be thoroughly and fully and fairly processed - before continuing with any discussion of that material.
More wrangles and compromises about scheduling erupt and are slowly put to rest, temporarily. Next sitting will be on November 16 at 9:00 a.m. to track "progress" and deal with "matters [that] can go ahead". Then, following, November 23 at 8:00 a.m. (if I am not mistaken).
Observations: The meeting was prickly and uncomfortable. Madam Justice Bennett was not always at ease; she seemed even anxious. Things are NOT moving forward.
McCullough alleged the Crown has not complied with the court order on disclosure. That is (quietly) a bombshell not observed by most.
Madam Justice Bennett has been slowly coming under question as a part of the delay mechanism. Where are her stern orders? Where are contempt of court charges for procrastinators? Why doesn't she make clear to herself if Crown is delaying - and, if so, take determined steps?
The pre-trial hearings are haunted by the facts that William Berardino, made Special Crown Prosecutor to assure distance and objectivity, was a former colleague of the Attorney General who appointed him.
Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, in addition, is a former colleague of the present Attorney General, Wally Oppal, who makes clear constantly that he is more political an instrument of Gordon Campbell as AG than an objective, mediating, "justice" force.
The suggestion that material to be examined may "impact on certain cabinet ministers" raises the most disturbing question of all - the continually haunting question: why did the RCMP early in the investigation declare that "no elected person" was under investigation?
In a matter as complicated as this one - involving drug investigations, corrupt B.C. Rail sale investigations, questionable Agricultural Land actions, fraud and breach of trust investigations and "proceeds of crime" investigations - how is it possible, for reasonable and prudent Canadians, to believe that NO elected official merits serious investigation?
The persons who must answer that complex concern are the Special Crown Prosecutor (behind him the RCMP) and the judge seized with the whole matter. The Special Crown Prosecutor, it seems, doesn't even entertain the idea of others needing investigation. So the onus falls on Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett to insist upon rapid and uncontaminated delivery of all disclosure material, and to bring the other matter up herself from the bench: are there persons who should be investigated now, perhaps elected officials, so that the pre-trial processes can be just, be seen to be just, and include anyone who should be considered in any of the aspects of the actions in process?
As it is, the actors on the stage in Courtroom 64 appeared to be shadow-boxing in a dense fog. The strange nature of the boxing is that there seemed to be boxers in the ring, punching and punching, who are nowhere mentioned on the fight program and whom some in the Courtroom deny even exist.
Bill Tileman says:
Didn't appear to me to be any other media than CP, me and Robin there but one or two people I didn't know. [Interesting, eh? - BC Mary]
Friday, October 26, 2007
Basi-Virk case - 25,000 new pages of evidence; Justice Bennett blows up; defence blames Special Prosecutor for delays
By Bill Tieleman
Friday October 26, 2007
A massive 25,000 page disclosure of new evidence in the breach of trust trial of two former provincial government ministerial aides could impact current BC cabinet ministers, BC Supreme Court was told Friday morning.
And tempers flared as defence lawyers, the Special Prosecutor and even Justice Elizabeth Bennett all expressed frustration at lengthy delays that have stalled the pending trial, which began with a police raid on the BC Legislature on December 28, 2003.
Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Bob Virk, the former ministerial assistant to then-Transportation Minister Judith Reid, told Bennett that current members of Premier Gordon Campbell's government may be affected when the new evidence is examined.
"There are certain documents that may have an impact on certain cabinet ministers and we may have to pursue those documents," McCullough said.
Earlier defence lawyer Michael Bolton, representing David Basi, former aide to then-Finance Minister Gary Collins, told the court that 13,000 pages of new evidence all connected to the BC Rail deal had been received by the defence this week. Another more than 11,000 pages related to a drug investigation that was linked to the case was also disclosed.
The massive disclosure of new material - ordered by Bennett in June in response to a defence request - has made it impossible for the defence to prepare planned court applications, an exasperated McCullough said.
"To give it all to us on the 22nd and 24th gives absolutely no time to review the file," McCullough said.
Bennett was also exasperated with the delays in the complicated case that began as an RCMP drug trafficking investigation but later branched off into a breach of trust action after wiretaps led police to look into the $1 billion privatization sale of BC Rail to CN Rail.
When counsel for the defence suggested it might need more time to prepare its applications in light of the new evidence, Bennett warned that she would not consider moving the planned December 3 date scheduled in court.
"As long as everyone understands we're not moving the December 3 date - if I have to sit here in an empty courtroom myself, the matters are going to be heard" she exclaimed.
"I don't think any of us expected this volume of documents to show up. I didn't," she added.
But McCullough intervened, placing the blame entirely on Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino and his team.
"There are no problems at the feet of the defence. 100% of the problem is at the feet of the Special Prosecutor," he charged, which prompted Berardino to fire back.
"If people are going to make a speech - I want to reply to that. You asked for every scrap of paper," Berardino started, referring to Bennett's own instructions previously in court.
But an angry Bennett refused to hear more.
"At some point your friends are going to bring in an abuse of process motion and I don't need to hear arguments from anyone today," Bennett said curtly. "I appreciate no one knew how many documents there were and I know everyone is working hard."
McCullough refused to drop the issue, however.
"We're quite prepared to set out for you that not one day of delay, not a single day, is due to the defence," he argued.
"I don't need to hear it," Bennett replied but McCullough persisted.
"The Special Prosecutor says they have complied with your order - I would like to review that," he said. "We have found hard copy call logs summaries that we cannot find electronically. The Special Prosecutor cannot find them either and they can't explain it."
"It would be negligent of me to not raise the problems," he concluded.
Outside the court Bolton repeated earlier statements that the defence will file an abuse of process motion which could potentially see the case dismissed without a trial, based on arguments against police conduct and problems with disclosure of evidence by the prosecution.
Bennett again warned both sides that delays are not acceptable.
Startling news, Bill: You say that Dave Basi's lawyer, Michael Bolton, declared that "more than 11,000 pages related to a drug investigation that was linked to the case were also disclosed". But weren't the drug-trafficking charges against Basi stayed? So have they been brought back into force? As well they should be, if I remember correctly the 26 wire-tapped cell phone calls from an alleged high-level criminal (thought to be Mr Big in the West) to Dave Basi in the Ministry of Finance during the summer of 2003. - BC Mary.
Allegations about Basi receiving money and benefits(federal lib. jobs and football tix)from lobbyist's,developers and the liberal party for media work has me thinking-were there other groups or companies passing cash his way? and was it shared with others? Some of those characters on that search warrant list are scary. How close were these guys? I am a little skeptical these days with all the conflicts with this government and friends lately. Hey, Mr.Doughbell did step down from the softwood file today,it's a start. That info re the accountants,Keiran,Taylor and KPMG is getting more interesting by the day. How many other fishing trips were there in those days?
So many excellent comments, good ideas, good information.
I'm way behind in my work on this web-site so these items are doubly appreciated.
But I just can't stop myself.....
"As long as everyone understands we're not moving the December 3 date - if I have to sit here in an empty courtroom myself, the matters are going to be heard" she (Judge Bennett) exclaimed."
WHY DOES MS BENNETT NOT DEMAND THAT BOTH PARTIES AND/OR THEIR SURROGATES COME BEFORE HER AND/OR HER SURROGATES EVERY DAY BETWEEN NOW AND DEC 3RD AND DEMONSTRATE THAT THEY ARE COMPLYING WITH HER JUNE 2007 ORDER?
WHY NOT....EVERY.... SINGLE....DAY....
sorry - but I just had to yell it.
A most agreeable outburst, Gazetteer.
In fact, isn't that an old dance tune:
Every single day, OK?
Why not, why not?
What sets me dancing on the ceiling, however, is Justice Bennett's image -- did nobody laugh? -- of herself sitting alone in an empty courtroom expecting "matters to be heard" ... I don't think she's thought that one through.
Seems like the equivalent of holding her breath until she gets her way.
"Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Bob Virk, the former ministerial assistant to then-Transportation Minister Judith Reid, told Bennett that current members of Premier Gordon Campbell's government may be affected when the new evidence is examined."
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DRUG DISCLOSURE IS THIS, THE CHARGES AGAINST BASI WERE DROPPED BUT DO YOU REMEMBER THE MINSTERIAL ASSISTANT WHO WAS CHARGED WITH DRUG TRAFFICKING - MARSHAL SMITH. SOMETHING TELLS ME THIS NEW MATERIAL WILL IN SOME WAY BE LINKED TO HIM AND HIS ALLEGED CONTACTS AND CUSTOMERS IN THE CAMPBELL GOVERNMENT. BASI'S LAWYER WOULDN'T RAISE THIS ISSUE IF HIS CLIENT WAS SOMEHOW LINKED INTO THIS. STAY TUNED FOR MORE!!
I had to read these articles twice,just to make sure I had read correctly-I had. Quite a gong show in the court room today. I did have a good laugh over Judge B's solo comment. Mary and G, I would have you two over for a glass or two of wine anytime.Good Humour! That McCullough counsel is one strong/aggresive lawyer. I hope to see the crown show thier stuff one day. I still would like to know who leaked the Paul Taylor emails? Who were the only people to have these emails legally? The RCMP,prosecuters and the defense. Obviously the lobbyist's had them and who knows who else had them before the search?
Rumour has it that there is some serious early snags in KPMG's detailed report. The report will likely not surface for a long time. What do you suppose the liberals and lawyers are so worried about? Do you think those 6 thousand plus wiretap phone calls on Basi's phone will connect any dots? Or will they ever see the light of day?
Abuse of process motion? Was that a threat? or just a rattled judge? 25 THOUSAND pages of material. How long would that take to analize? The crown lawyers look and sound like a bunch of first time,rookie litigators-and they are far from that. Maybe thats exactly what plenty of liberals want. Some one please tell me-who would be Mr. Berardino"s direct boss? and who would be Mr.Berardino's boss's direct boss? Is it the Attorney General? If it is, I believe we have one more conflict of interest. These raids are a first in the history of Canada and I would like to have some expert? opinion-for I can't even find spell check on this blog. Accountability is that too much to ask for?
How to tank the case? Claim evidence was lost.
A Special Prosecutor is investigating accusations against Ken Dobell. When do they run out of Special Prosecutors? This BC government could be the most corrupt in Canada's history. And I would point the finger at the Courts for creating an environment conducive to dishonesty. Check out the BC Justice Review process: public input is excluded, even as Brenner-Seckel are solicting comment from paralegals and registry snots, or clerks.
Stonewally isn't my favourite public figure, by any means. But have a look at this article in today's Vancouver Sun:
A-G sues Malik to recover loan
By Kim Bolan
Bill T. very kindly led me through the process again. He points out that the 11,000 drug-related documents of which defence complained yesterday, are documents requested by defence. Therefore, not part of the prosecution's case.
Bill sent me copies of two old columns explaining that others have been tried and convicted of drug-related issues -- others who were caught in Operation "Everywhichway". Dave Basi's name was not among them.
But new questions arise.
It says Charges of "production and possession" against Dave Basi were stayed "by federal Crown". Federal?
And what about the specific 26 calls caught on wiretaps to Dave Basi at work in the Ministry of Finance (summer 2003) from one of the persons named, charged, convicted -- did the federal Crown see those? In fact, what am I missing here ... like, a trial? A hearing? A deal? A transcript? A revealing editorial in a CanWest newspaper?
Under the Crown Council Act the Assistant Deputy Attorney General (ADAG) appoints Special Prosecutors.
So in my view and in normal business practices The ADAG would be answerable to the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) who would in turn be answerable to the Attorney General (AG). But with this government, who knows?
Hansard, Thurs. Oct.25/07
Hon. W. Oppal: "Mr. Speaker, you know, the last time I looked, we had due process and fairness in this country. Under our system the Crown Council Act mandates the appointment of Special Prosecutors where it would be in the public interest to do so."
Public Interest? I don't think so Mr Attorney General. In the case of the Legislature Raids it has become increasingly clear to the PUBLIC that the special prosecutor is acting in the interests of the crown.
So my question is: why isn't the Special Prosecutor acting in the "best interest" of the public? And further: why isn't the ADAG, or the DAG, or the AG, lighting a fire under his slack ass? Could it be that they are protecting the governing Liberals? I think so. And I still can't figure out why Justice Bennett isn't lighting that fire. My Take, and I'll say it here and now. Two words. ABSOLUTE COVERUP.
The government keeps saying we can't have a Public Inquiry. Usually they allude to the fact that this is all before the courts. Yesterdays late delivery of 25K pages makes a mockery out of the claims "before the courts"
My friend told me the defence lawyers were on their game and the atmoshpere was very tense. If Berardino really wants this to go ahead why doesn't he stand up in front of the judge and tell her the rcmp are dragging their feet once again??
The end result you and I lose once again.
James, this is very interesting indeed.
I'll pass your comment along to Robin and Bill T.
Many, many thanks!
Justice Bennett has several cases, as do the defence lawyers and special prosecutors - they don't sit in their offices doing nothing between infrequent Basi-Virk appearances, so showing up daily is not remotely possible.
The drug investigation I referred to in my blog article is the original cocaine case that led to the BC Legislature raid when police allegedly heard David Basi on wiretaps discussing the BC Rail deal in a way which led them to being a separate investigation.
Those individuals - Basi was never charged or even alleged to be involved - were charged and either convicted or pled guilty with one exception - there is a trial in 2008 in Victoria for Jasmohan Bains.
The defence wants access to police investigation material from the drug case because it believes there is some overlap in where the evidence is located. No one should confuse that case with the Basi-Virk case.
Justice Bennett did not "threaten" an abuse of process application. She is keenly aware, as has been publicly reported many times, that the defence will apply to have the case thrown out of court over the way police handled the investigation and over failure to disclose evidence to the defence in a timely and appropriate manner.
Justice Bennett was not willing to hear any arguments around that issue prior to the application being heard in court.
Attorney-General Wally Oppal has no involvement in this case whatsoever and could not derail it even if he wanted to. The Special Prosecutor provision has worked well to ensure that no political party - NDP or BC Liberal - can influence a prosecution.
Furthermore, any attempt to do so would be political suicide.
Witholding cabinet documents with claims of Parliamentary privilege is not surprising - no government would be willing to disclose its inner workings even if they were innocuous because of the importance of confidentiality in cabinet discussions.
Justice Bennett will review the material and decide what can or cannot be released - I have great faith she will use good judgement in doing so.
Gazetteer, I like your everyday (WHY NOT....EVERY.... SINGLE....DAY....
)suggestion and Mary, I hardly think you could have missed a "revealing editorial" in a Canned Westy newspaper - there is no such thing, though Gordo's personal PR guy at the Stun did get kinda snarky on him in yesterday's Stun. Campbell played game of rubber numbers and deception - or the LIEberals very own Fast Ferries on Steroids.
I point out the lack of balance in how various matters are pursued in the BC courts today over at the
House. Justice can be swift and stern, depending in whose interests are at stake.
Thank you for posting the 'bird's eye views' of the dynamic duo: Robin & Bill . . . a multitude of thoughts stream into one's mind as the comments above reflect.
Like you, my immediate thought was related to the stack of evidence re: drugs dealings! I thought things had conveniently sidestepped that original shocking scenario in our Legislature? Hmmmmm
You can bet that politics has entered this courtroom just as it has in all high profile political cases to protect the politicians who in turn are in bed with other high profile links. The courts are no longer a house of justice for the people when cases like this surface. The name of the game is DAMAGE CONTROL which trumps justice any day in the minds of those vested interests that stand to be harmed by the TRUTH. Justice Bennett must be feeling mighty hot & bothered these days for a variety of reasons!!!
You & others commenting are correct: Why isn't she doing a lot of things? Why is the Govt. (Campbell et al) ALLOWED to redact & hide what they choose related to this robbery of BC Rail? Where are the interests of the public being protected in this trial proceeding particularly when the personal links to Campbell hold the reigns at CN Rail?
In this case, the Judge's actions are being scrutinized much more than in the past thanks largely to you & your team of 'eagle eyes'. It adds another much needed check to the system, as in: "We are all watching so get it right!"
Is it a smoke & mirrors performance in the courtroom with a hidden agenda to derail the truth using every legal trick & manipulation available? Oh to be a fly on the wall in those hidden backrooms of Govt. & the House of Justice.
Is the Defense ultimately part of the smoke & mirrors with operating with the common vested interest agenda of getting rid of this stuff because of their own clients' misconduct?
I'd believe anything where there is so much at stake 'everywhichway' with the cast of characters involved. It certainly would make life a lot easier for all concerned if a big broom came along to solve the problem.
For what it's worth, I believe that there is a whole pot full of rotten dealings involving politicians pulling strings & the govt. aides involved in other bad deeds. It is a complex soup of stench with everyone holding something on the next guy/gal involved. What should have already surfaced is being suppressed - no question.
One thing that keeps circulating in my weary brain re: the machinations of this ugly scenario:
During the pretrial, it became clear, that the high levels of the RCMP (Asst. Commiss. level) were getting direct phone requests from the Solicitor General's Office NOT to pursue an investigation into Min. Collins etc. . . . . THAT sounds like the seeds of a coverup at the highest levels of the Govt. dictating inappropriately to the highest stratas of the RCMP . . . doesn't it???
After all it wasn't the officers actually doing the investigation & original raid that wanted to deep six this potential bomb according to the pretrial evidence; the lead Inspector stated that he WANTED to purse Collins. What happened??? What other politicians did they want to pursue &/or high corporate mucky mucks????
So what is wrong with this picture? Does the inappropriate interference of POLITICS where it does not belong in the now tainted justice system ring a bell, anyone?
Sorry for my stream of consciousness ramblings above, Mary.
Now please have a cup of coffee & take a break, my friend!!
Of course Mr. T. -- I understand the practicalities of who is doing what when. Clearly, my holler-a-thon at the top of the thread was done with a degree of tongue-in-cheekiness. Regardless, the point I would like to make is the following: At some point something serious has to be done to ensure that when the day to get started comes around (again)that things are not pushed back (again) because one side or the other claims (again) that something that should have happened has not happened (again).
One of the Anon-O-Mice above asked, "When do we run out of special prosecutors in this province?"
That I am not sure of.
It is interesting, however, how a lawyer for one party who has/has had been involved in the provincial government, and whose actions are currently being investigated by a special prosecutor, can simultaneously act as the special prosecutor in a different case that allegedly involves a close relative of another member of the very same provincial government.
Then again, maybe lawyers, like lobbyists, can explain it all away by declaring themselves to be "content consultants".
"At some point your friends are going to bring an abuse of process motion and I don't need to hear arguments today" Bennett said curtly. I understand it was a little tense in the courtroom friday-so maybe her comments were taken mistakenly in the wrong context. It indeed is still quite a strong statement from judge Bennett to the crowns lawyer,even if she is only repeating what the defence has been screaming about for months. Time rolls on.
Mr.Collins being investigated or not? That is some pretrial drama. I hate to say it,however it does seem to be a keystone cop scenario on the Collins file,or was it?. There was also that lost notebook from a RCMP detective that showed up in the courtroom re.Collins and Kieran and Clark and Coleman.
Bill T.-thank you for the good work on this court case. Bill's comment on the other cases for all the lawyers,that scares the hell out of me. Obviously they have other cases and they have to make a living,however I wonder how many other cases? Time rolls on.
"Then again, maybe lawyers, like lobbyists, can explain it all away by declaring themselves to be "content consultants".
There is no content, just a simple one word agenda:
GREED (with a sprinkle of ideology)
(as in Carole Taylor as to why the LIEberal's own Fast Ferries on Steroids or the Convention Centre is over budget by approx. 100%)
"It's not a P3"
Thus, what is in reality easily surmountable appears insurmountable...and what should be easy to demand appears too difficult to demand. And consequently - and most importantly, everything in "every which way" appears too time-consuming to take on.
I think this case has been purposely "diffused", bread crumbs scattered in all directions to create a labyrinth of confusion, a maze of distraction...with too many fronts/diversions.
Make it undefendable in scope and thus, unsustainable - and eventually, surprise, surprise, it becomes dismissable.
These were the same tactics, (making the surmountable appear unsurmountable) used in a carefully planned attack on our public services - in order to bring in privatization in this province. The public system was attacked on so many fronts it was difficult to take on so many avenues at once - where what could easily have been addressed was "purposely set up" to induce failure and confusion in our public system - the easy was purposely made complex and confusing... and thus eventually unsustainable...and surprise, surprise, one by one our public services....were "dismissed".
How you play the game always gives who you are away.
Different game, same players.
Thanks, all, for good comments.
Anon 11:15, I wish I understood all you've written. H.A. is Hells Angels, I guess. But what is EWW?
What is GHB? O/C is probably organized crime. Pls clarify, OK?
I think Dave Basi must've been charged in the drug investigation, or else how could his case have been stayed in June 2005??
Does anybody know the status of the A.L.R. charges against Basi and the two developers re the Sooke lands?
Or anything at all about Jasmohan Bains' trial date in 2008?