Wednesday, December 26, 2007

 

4th anniversary of legislature raid

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B.C. legislature raid case reaches four-year anniversary without trial

Camille Bains
Canadian Press - 26 December 2007

VANCOUVER - The images splashed on TV newscasts four years ago shocked British Columbians - RCMP investigators swarming the province's stately legislature building, carting away boxes of documents seized under a search warrant. {Snip} ...

Bill Berardino, the special prosecutor appointed in the case, said he's certain about one thing: "This will go to trial."

But he pointed out the mass of documentary evidence approaches that of the Air India bombing case because it covers four separate investigations.

They involve BC Rail, drugs, the province's Agricultural Land Commission and a related proceeds-of-crime probe. {Snip} ...

In the Agricultural Land Reserve investigation, Basi faces four fraud-related charges for allegedly taking $50,000 from developers so a 700-home project near Victoria could proceed with an application to remove protected farmland from the land reserve.

Berardino said disclosing documents to defence lawyers has been a time-consuming process because while the BC Rail probe was completed first, the other investigations took about three years.

Going through all the documents has been a massive undertaking for him and a team of Crown lawyers who've worked full time for two years to deal with disclosure issues, Berardino said.

"What people don't understand is we have to vet every document because we have to be sure there's no informer information on there, no solicitor-client privilege or privacy and safety interests."

The government's position is that cabinet privilege will be waived on all documents that are relevant to the BC Rail case, except if they involve solicitor-client privilege, Berardino said.

"This idea that the government is blocking through cabinet privilege, which the defence lawyers have tried to argue, is complete nonsense," he said.

Mark Jette, a lawyer with the B.C. branch of the Canadian Bar Association, said lawyers for both sides in the case are wading through uncharted waters.

"It's not an area which any of us are used to litigating or experienced in litigating so you've got to figure out how you're going to deal with and research it and it's not easy to do," Jette said of documents involving government privilege.

"You can look at the American example in Watergate and the giant struggle that went on between the White House and Congress as to what was privileged presidential cabinet material," he said, referring to the 1970s political scandal that toppled president Richard Nixon. {Snip} ...

The focus of the allegations against Basi and Virk involve them accepting money for providing confidential BC Rail documents to a lobbyist for OmniTRAX, a Denver, Colo.-based company that was one of three bidders vying for BC Rail.

Basi and Virk's lawyers have said their clients were merely political operatives acting on behalf of their political masters - mainly Basi's boss, former finance minister Gary Collins, who was handling the sale, and Premier Gordon Campbell's office.

Court has heard evidence Collins offered a so-called consolation prize to OmniTRAX officials if they stayed in the bidding while his aide kept up assurances about the perception of a fair bidding process even though the government had already decided the successful bidder would be CN Rail.

Collins, who is expected to testify at the trial, maintains he did nothing wrong.

Another factor in the complex case involves a police informer who is the subject of an in-camera hearing that defence lawyers fought to attend.

The judge has ruled they can be present but the Crown could challenge that decision.

Lawyer Roger McConchie, who represents The Canadian Press and other media that also want access to the secret hearing, said the fact reporters are barred from the court room means the public won't learn what's involved in the political corruption case.

"This case cries out for the greatest transparency at every step because of the profound public interest in the integrity of its institutions - the legislature, the government and public officials," McConchie said.

"In my view the delays in getting the matter to trial, where all of the evidence should become fully available to the public in the Crown's case and possibly the defence's case, has meant that the interest in prompt, complete understanding of the facts has been effectively negated.

"The entire life of an incumbent government goes by without the public getting a clear view of the facts which have led to this prosecution."

Political observer Norman Ruff said there will be a huge public outcry if the case does not go to a trial.

"People would demand a public inquiry but a public inquiry isn't a substitute for a court judgment," the retired University of Victoria political scientist said. "I think the public would much prefer a trial."

Ruff said that while the case is complex, the image of the police raid at the legislature is burned into the public's collective memory. People want to know what went on.

"That December 2003 image still has a currency," he said.

http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5j6ZPAS0USRy6iE_AbBIDdOUT8tdA

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Thanks and a Happy New Year to Camille Bains who attends the Basi-Virk-Basi courtroom hearings regularly and writes some of the best reports. - BC Mary.

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Comments:
Mary, what does berardino mean by "vet"?
 
007 - VET is an intransitive verb, used in this sense to mean that it is necessary to subject a document to "usually" expert appraisal or correction vet a manuscript and(or) b: to evaluate for possible approval or acceptance vet the candidates (in this case the witnesses) for a position (in this case as a source of testimony in a trial.

What Berardino means is to 'check out these documents and determine it:
(a) they are relevant; (b) they do not contain privileged or other information that "cannot" for a variety of legal reasons be released to the public (and perhaps also to defence counsel and the press); and (c) that corrections and redactions have been made before they are released.

The suggestion that the crown has been dealing with the documentation in this case efficiently and expeditiously is, in my view, absurd....
 
The Globe and MAil and the CBC found this article to be noteworthy but CanWest saw things differently. DL
 
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Good point, DL.

I don't think CanWest is fooling many people these days.

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thank you for clarifying the issue of the "vet". I also can safely assume that the Bolton comment on "undue editing" is referring to redactions that have taken place.

In taking 4 years to get to trial would make anyone skeptical about the SP's bravado.
 
The T/C editorial today discusses the trial DL. Sent as email to blog owner
 
"This idea that the government is blocking through cabinet privilege, which the defence lawyers have tried to argue, is complete nonsense," he said.

Show me the money Bill, or if you aren't up on movie lingo PROVE IT
 
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