Monday, December 10, 2007

 

Defence lawyers want access to Gary Collins documents

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More bits and pieces from Camille Bains, Canadian Press, on today's Basi-Virk / BC Rail hearing:
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VANCOUVER - Lawyers for two former government aides want access to documents police seized from their clients' legislature offices, saying important information involving former finance minister Gary Collins's involvement in the sale of B.C. Rail is needed to mount a defence.

Michael Bolton, who represents Dave Basi, told B.C. Supreme Court on Monday that crucial information about Collins approving a consolation prize for American company OmniTRAX to stay in the bidding process is relevant to the case. {Snip} ...

Bolton said the boxes of documents police carted away contain information pertaining to numerous phone calls on Nov. 17, 2003, in which Basi confirmed to Virk that Collins had dangled future opportunities for OmniTRAX to do business with the B.C. government if the company stayed in the bidding process.

"It's not just Mr. Basi talking but there was a high level of awareness and acknowledgment of this consolation prize issue," Bolton said.

But George Copley, a lawyer for the executive branch of the government, said the documents seized by police are protected by solicitor-client privilege and can't be released to defence lawyers.

He said they include advice from lawyers and bankers on the sale of B.C. Rail and are therefore confidential. {Snip} ...

Bolton said he doesn't want the government to hide behind the shield of solicitor-client privilege because he sees no need for it.

"When the merits of the case come to be tried you will, of course, be hearing from a variety of witnesses, including Gary Collins," he said.

Collins has denied any wrongdoing in the railway deal.

Kevin McCullough, who represents Virk, said 17 documents from his client's office were seized, including 14 e-mails.

He said the documents pertain to issues involving political conflict that are important to the case.

For example, the government appointed a board member to the B.C. Investment Management Corp., which provides professional funds management services for public bodies and publicly administered trust funds, while the member was also on the B.C. Rail evaluation committee.

McCullough said another potential conflict includes Collins knowing that Basi and Virk went to Denver, Colo., - where OmniTRAX is based - six months before the B.C. Rail bid started and yet he appointed the two men to work on the B.C. Rail team.

Court also heard Monday that defence lawyers have nominated a Victoria lawyer to review the vast array of documents sought by them from various government offices, including the ministries of Finance and Transportation and the premier's office.

Bolton said outside court that while police searched only Basi's and Virk's offices, the B.C. Rail deal involved many other offices that would have contained important documents.

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