Friday, December 14, 2007
Lawyer in B.C. legislature raid case says Liberals denying access to documents
By: Camille Bains
THE CANADIAN PRESS - December 11, 2007
VANCOUVER - A defence lawyer for a former B.C. government aide charged in a political corruption case slammed the provincial Liberals' "perversity" Tuesday, saying he's being denied access to documents in the case even though he's already obtained some of them through a Freedom of Information request.
Kevin McCullough, who represents Bobby Virk, said his client had access to documents involving the sale of Crown-owned B.C. Rail as a government appointee to a committee evaluating bids.
But McCullough said Virk now can't have the same information to defend himself against charges of fraud and breach of trust involving the $1-billion privatization sale of Crown-owned B.C. Rail to CN Rail in November 2003.
"It's difficult to digest the suggestion that the government is fully co-operative," said McCullough, who has made several lengthy submissions about the lack of disclosure documents.
The charges against Virk, along with his co-accused Dave Basi, also involve a Dec. 28, 2003, police raid on their legislature offices. Aneal Basi, a government communications officer, is charged with money laundering in connection with the case.
Virk was a ministerial assistant to then-transportation minister Judith Reid, while Dave Basi worked for former finance minister Gary Collins, who was heading the B.C. Rail sale.
McCullough said 17 of the seized documents, including two he obtained after a 2005 Freedom of Information request, will explain Virk's actions in relation to instructions he obtained from the premier's office and Collins.
Government lawyer George Copley has said the documents can't be released because they involve legal and financial advice on B.C. Rail and are therefore protected by solicitor-client privilege.
"You can fully co-operate and still take a principled stand and we are taking a principled stand on solicitor-client privilege," Copley said.
"We had no prior notice of the arguments being presented today or what was being sought," he said, adding he was not prepared to respond fully until Friday.
McCullough also claimed Collins was in a conflict of interest when he appointed deputy finance minister Chris Trumpy to the B.C. Rail evaluation committee while he was lead negotiator for the B.C. Rail deal.
Trumpy was also appointed by Collins as chairman of the B.C. Investment Management Corp., which holds private company shares on behalf of the B.C. government.
The appointments were made despite the fact the corporation held CN Rail stock, which currently stands at $363 million, McCullough said of the company that was favoured to win the B.C. Rail bid weeks before it was announced to the public, court has heard.
"It's an obvious conflict and one which my client was aware of and whether the (opposition) NDP would get a hold of that was an issue in question," McCullough said.
The Freedom-of-Information documents McCullough obtained include a Dec. 18, 2003, e-mail from Trumpy to Virk and others on the B.C. Rail evaluation team and a Dec. 19, 2003, e-mail to Trumpy from a lawyer titled "Advice to Trumpy re conflict."
McCullough said the RCMP interviewed Trumpy three times about the appointment issue involving Collins.
"When you're considering the government's assertion of solicitor-client position about the disclosure of this material I want you to consider it in light of not my Johnny-Come-Lately position but the one that I was advancing and chasing two years ago regarding what clearly are the actions of this government, the way that they appointed people and who they appointed," he told the judge.
Michael Bolton, a lawyer for Dave Basi, said his client is at a disadvantage compared with Virk, who had access to the seized documents that were e-mailed to him and that he likely remembers.
Basi's job was to keep Denver, Colo.,-based OmniTRAX interested in buying B.C. Rail, even after CP Rail became so disenchanted that it dropped out of the bidding process, Bolton said.
He said Basi kept up assurances about the perception of a fair bidding process to OmniTRAX even though the B.C. government had decided the successful bidder would be CN Rail weeks before the public announcement was made on Nov. 25, 2003.
OmniTRAX had increased its second-round bid by $45 million, Bolton said.
He also said putting the Crown-owned railway into bankruptcy was one option being considered at the time of the negotiations.
It's clear that Gordon Campbell DOES respond to pressure - the action of the legislative committee yesterday to reverse its decision about Madame Justice Turpel-Lafond's budget proves that beyond any doubt.
It's time for the people of the province to let Gordon Campbell know that they expect him to direct his minions to release 'every' document that pertains to this case.
That's what openness, a fair trial and the people of this province demand and that's what he must deliver.
The charges are provided under the formal Supreme Court Listings on the days when Basi-Virk-Basi are in court.
The link is right there on this web-site.
Jut click on Van Court - Direct and it will appear in pdf.
Please give us a hint, eh?
Also, for another bit of mystery, how about that dramatic orange box which highlights this posting?!
Honest to gosh, I have no idea how it happened. Like I was saying earlier ...
Does anybody have a pdf version of the final copy of the 'Fairness Evaluation Of The Restructuring Of The BC Rail Freight Division'.
That's the document that Mr. Kevin Falcon was telling Elayne Brenzinger that she could go read back for details of how everything really was closer to fine back in 2004.
Unfortunately (coincidentally/not coincidentally?), the Legislative Library link to it is dead.
I do have a copy of the interim report which Judith Reid harangued Joy McPhail about Nov 2003 (ie. one month BEFORE the LedgeRaid).
It is interesting in the extreme what that interim report says it didn't do (link to the pdf can be found in the tidbits at the bottom of the latest over at my place)
What are your thoughts about the fact that.....
1) A comment from 'deep throat' at Mr. T's place on Monday quotes extensively from the exchange between Ms. James and Mr. Campbell in the Ledge back in May 2007.
2) You post much of that same exchange here on Tuesday.
3) Finally, on Friday (executive branch?) government lawyer Mr. Copely quotes 'selectively' from the James/Campbell exchange live and in colour from the Studio 54 dancefloor.
Or do we have someone feeding us info who really is in the know?
Well, Gazetteer, I thought it doggone peculiar that George Copley chose to use that Deep Throat quote but to give it what, in my view, was the opposite meaning.
It's fair to ask Copley why he did that.
Why would a respected lawyer in the warmth of retirement, plunge himself into the full glare of a public trial, risking his reputation, to defend an embattled premier by making what appears to be a dubious interpretation of something said 7 months ago in Legislative debates?
That was the big question in my mind as I read Bill Tieleman's report on it: why, Mr Copley? Why?
Seems to me that Deep Throat has been steadily helpful all along.
Beyond that, I find myself relying upon the Anon-O-Mice for analysis, recollections, opinions.
Because, twixt thee and me, I've had it on good authority that there are some familiar "Names" who admit to reading this blog from time to time. Yours too, I'd wager.
And I'd wager that some of them are our valued Anon-O-Mice who occasionally drop hot tips, and other times might put out a false road-sign.
Now I'm going to do what I meant to do, after reading The Falcon's advice: look up the Charles Rivers Report.
Many thanks for all your work on this file, RossK.
Thanks for the explanation, and I understand your cautionary tone fully.
On your final point, I've got the interim report from Charles River - but for life of me I cannot locate the 'final' report that Mr. Falcon (and a whole heckuva lot of gov't press releasing) referred to.
I think there was one other 'telling' quote in that piece at Tieleman's blog too.
"The instructions really are driving the way you ought to interpret the government's assertions of solicitor-client privilege," McCullough told Bennett. "The Deputy Cabinet Secretary is ultimately who's instructing Mr. Copley with respect to privilege."
And who do you suppose pulls 'those' strings?
It isn't just me and thee who have been thinking this....and it makes Gordon Campbell's oft-repeated refrain of disinterest, objectivity and respect for the independence of the justice system more than a little suspect.
I wonder what former AG Geoff Plant is thinking about these days?
I strongly suspect he is another member of cabinet at the time that would have more than one tale to tell....
Decided to look more closely at Charles Rivers Associates. Yoicks.
Here's some of the mild stuff:
Founded in 1965, Charles River Associates is an economics, finance, and business consulting firm that works with businesses, law firms, accounting firms, and governments in providing a wide range of services.
CRA combines economic and financial analysis with expertise in litigation and regulation support, business strategy and planning, market and demand forecasting, policy analysis, and engineering and technology management.
More information about the company can be found on its Web site at www.crai.com. They've changed their name to CRAI (Charles Rivers Associates International) with offices round and about the world.
Head Office: Boston, Massachusetts,USA.
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Recommended reading: Go back to June 24, 2006 on The Legislature Raids, to three postings:
The Collins-Basi friendship dates back to early 1990.
The Honourable Gary Collins.
An excerpt from Hansard in which Joy MacPhail punches holes in the cloak of respectability which CRAI have thrown over the BC Rail deal.