Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Before police raided the B.C. Legislature, there was time to destroy evidence
By Three Concerned Canadians
During the month of December 2003, key people in the B.C. legislature knew that an unprecedented police raid was coming. The public ever since has been asked to assume that the Campbell government and staff sat meekly for 28 days, doing nothing to protect themselves. We question that assumption, in the light of the Special Prosecutor's continuing refusal or inability to disclose documents required by the Basi, Virk, Basi Defence.
Dec. 1, 2003 - B. C. Attorney General Geoff Plant is told by his staff that a case requires the appointment of a special prosecutor and may involve a search of the B.C. legislature.
Dec. 7, 2003 - Mandeep Sandhu is elected to the executive of the Liberals in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.
Dec. 9, 2003 - Police raid Mandeep Sandhu's home in Saanich. Police question Sandhu and seize a computer. Sandhu is later released. No charges are laid.
Dec. 11, 2003 - William Berardino is appointed special prosecutor to oversee an investigation involving a member of the Victoria police and appointees at the legislature.
From: IN DEPTH - B.C. RAIDS. CBC News Online, Sept 14,2004. http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/bcraids/
This CBC snippet says that the appointment of Berardino on December 11, 2003 involved a member of Victoria police (since charged and convicted of obstruction of justice); and that it also involved "appointees at the legislature". Does it matter whether the Special Prosecutor was David Harris or William Berardino? The point is: a special prosecutor was appointed without public knowledge of it. Hansard records the Opposition Leader's protests in the legislature, which will be mentioned later.
Complicating factors not yet mentioned by the Basi Virk Basi Defence team entered this scene in December 2003.
Bill Berardino was appointed by then-Attorney General Geoff Plant with whom Berardino had formerly been in practice. Is this an arm's length appointment? Or was it the basis for building a collegial team?
Special Prosecutor for the different set of events leading up to the Legislature “raids” was David Harris (p.8, item 57, Application for Disclosure). He was not at arm's length, either. Harris was the law partner of Bill Berardino. Harris was the one giving legal advice on the day of the raids. Was this a collegial team beginning its work?
And then there is the intersecting relationships between Plant, Berardino and Harris....when presto! Harris is strangely supplanted by Berardino. When? Why?
But then Harris seems to have disappeared. Bill Berardino, apparently, added matters concerning the Legislature raids to his responsibilities.
When? Why? asks Robin Mathews.
"Can we see a pattern in the extraordinary Application for Disclosure of February 26, 2007? To an average, concerned, and reasonably intelligent observer, a pattern seems to appear throughout which suggests the Special Prosecutor has been utterly unable or unwilling to fulfill his responsibilities, and that the RCMP has been careless or purposefully obstructive in producing essential materials. I would say it also reveals that the presiding judge has failed to be in control and to insist upon the speedy, competent, fair, and full opening up of materials essential to a trial of integrity." - Robin Mathews. Vive le Canada, March 5, 2007. http://www.vivelecanada.ca/article.php/20070304183732539/print
The word "collusion" springs to mind. In the month of December, 2003 -- even though the legislature came together on a special sitting of December 16, 2003 -- not a word was said about the appointments of two special prosecutors for two ongoing and intertwining investigations.
The list gets longer about the number of people who knew these investigations were underway before the raid on the legislature even took place. And it is really hard to imagine that the ever-controlling duo of Gordon Campbell and Martyn Brown were kept out of that loop. What it looks like -- dare we say it? -- is a team seemingly coming together ... doing what??
Now we should look at Hansard Debates. This quote from Hansard Debates is an important part to take into consideration. MacPhail begins a series of questions about what she calls the "secret appointment" of Berardino in early December.
From line 1920 to the end of the page is very interesting - (Coleman constantly tries to skirt the issue of the exact date of the appointment of Berardino). MacPhail does remember and she is clearly tying it into a memory of a special meeting of the legislature called about the IWA.:
J. MacPhail [Leader of the Opposition]: Yes, I know. The special prosecutor was appointed in early December, and clearly, the Solicitor General is saying that the Attorney General didn't tell him anything about that. What role, if any, is then required of the Solicitor General? The Legislature was sitting while the special prosecutor was appointed. We had a special sitting to deal with ordering IWA workers back. Cabinet was meeting, the building was busy, and there'd been a special prosecutor appointed that no one knew about — no one knew about.
The Hansard debate list for December 2003 reveals that the legislators break for Christmas holidays on December 2. Hansard clearly shows them wishing each other happy holidays, the Lt-Governor Campagnolo is called in to formalize the closure of the sitting, etc.
But then you will notice a "special" return of the legislature on Dec. 16 (just as Joy said) with the forest issues clearly on the agenda. (That may have been an oh-so-convenient excuse that allowed some of the BCLibs to assemble without people wondering why. This may be cynical - but on the face of it, the people of B.C. have lots of reasons to be cynical.)
Isn't it the appointment itself, without public knowledge of it, (and taking place before the raids) that is the essential question here? And that there was time to have tampered with documents held by the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Transport, or their Ministerial Assistants before the raid took place?
Because to launch their unprecedented raid, the RCMP had to seek the consent of the Speaker of the House in order to enter "his" House. Solicitor General Rich Coleman was aware of that. But it is not clear why he felt he had to accompany the RCMP on a flight to Kamloops to obtain Claude Richmond's signature. What was his role in this trip? Whose side was he protecting?
So a special prosecutor could have been appointed on or around Dec. 11, 2003, which is 17 days -- more than 2 weeks -- before the raids.
This was a government 2 years into its 4-year mandate with a massive majority of 77 Members and a 2-Member Opposition. Had they grown sloppy? Possibly. For example, Notice of Application for Disclosure, para 53 ... without specifying where the information came from ... does say this: "On the application for the search warrants, they advised Mr Justice Dohm that Minister Collins was not a target of their investigation." The astute observer might doubt that such a statement could have any credence on that date (December 12, 2003).
So if they had made some errors in judgment, would a powerful sitting government be eager to help in revealing any shocking displays of its own dirty laundry? We don't think so. We think there more likely would have been an almost irresistible urge to cover up evidence.
Look: There was time. There was a motive. There was opportunity. There was a team. There was the quietness of the Legislature at Christmas when many people were off duty. Survival -- even political survival -- creates strong temptations. The human mind might well consider tampering with documentary evidence in the offices of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Transport, or their Ministerial Assistants with so much quiet time before the raid took place. Who would ever know?
The facts show that the police raid on the B.C. Legislature could not possibly have been a surprise to the sitting government for a full 28 days.
The facts show that the sitting government did not maintain an arm's length approach.
Consider this, by Robin Mathews:
"More important by far are the substantial reasons Defence counsel give for the Application [for Disclosure]. I will cite only some of the most revealing ones.
(1) They state that (item 38, page 5) “On November 17, 2003, the RCMP learned through a series of intercepted communications that Mr. Basi advised OmniTRAX that Minister [Gary] Collins, [minister of finance] had authorized a consolation prize [perhaps a veiled bribe?] for Omnitrax in exchange for them staying in the bidding process…”[for B.C. Rail]. [Negotiations with OmniTRAX for the Roberts Bank spur line were terminated later on advice from the RCMP that the matter was tainted.] Minister Collins met with omniTRAX representatives on December 12, 2003, (page 8, item 62) but “the RCMP elected not to conduct any further investigation of Minister Collins”.
So one day after the appointment of Berardino on Dec. 11, Collins is meeting with Omnitrax on Dec. 12 - and even with a special prosecutor in place, and the wiretap tip about Collins and the "consolation prize".... no further investigation of Collins is decided. (And it is quickly said after the raid that no government officials are involved.)
The heart of these questions: Could such matters be causing the bewildering efforts by the government, 4 years later, still desperately seeking to avoid disclosure?
Isn't it logical to assume that the same sitting government in 2008 would quite honestly be unable to provide documents which had been destroyed in December 2003? Do Basi, Virk, or Basi know? And if they know, will they break the logjam by giving that evidence?
The people of British Columbia must judge these matters for themselves as the pre-trial hearings continue: January 18, January 28, January 29, 2008. The trial for the 3 lesser players in these scenes, may begin on March 17, 2008. We hope so.
Maybe Campbell had decamped for warmer climes when the Legislature rose in early December. One should be able to check the roll call in Hansard to see if the 'boss' was there for the emergency session to send the IWA back to work but really, what were two opposition MLAs going to do? Why should Campbell interrupt his holidays for that?
I mean really! A Premier has to prioritize wouldn’t you think?
I wouldn't be surprised if he was out of the country and things got out of hand in terms of 'controlling' matters while he was away.
Perhaps that's why he's so concerned - despite his professed interest in letting everything hang out - about some of the documents the defence wants.
He certainly 'controls' everything else the government does - wouldn't it be entirely out of character for him to not be 'running' the BCRail sale off his credenza too?
But of course, once the deal was consummated he probably thought he was home free...maybe the Raid and all the attendant stuff really did catch him with his figurative pants down.
Perhaps he's been playing legal catch up (read delay and obfuscate) ever since....
It was revealing to have the picture painted with a focus on the roots of the Raid during the month of December 2003. Man, the brain cells were stimulated!
I agree, there was a political swat 'team' in gear when one reflects on the insiders involved & their key roles in the sequence of events.
The sole mission was clearly to cover up the corruption, any way the Campbell cronies could 'fix' it - by placing specific people in positions for damage control & yes, working those shredders overtime - they must have been steaming!
As for the former Sol. General Coleman's role . . . .GIVE ME A BREAK. . .His fingers have goo all over them, from sticking them in too many pies: e.g. flying to Kamloops with the RCMP to the Speaker to get permission for the Raid; not to mention his Deputy Minister phoning to suggest to RCMP Dep. Commissioner Bass that the Govt. did not want Collins to be interviewed in Hawaii because of the danger of Cabinet secrets being revealed(Neal Hall's report some months ago). . . .such garbage - & Bass agreed to this!!!!?
Collins should have been collared immediately to cough up everything he knew, as some of the RCMP lead investigators wanted to do before the political intervention.
Special Prosecutors do not investigate - they only act & advise on material that is given to them as anonymus alluded to above. If the police were blocked from obtaining key evidence (pre-shredded prior to the Raid & blocked from investigating key politicians) the Special Prosecutor cannot act on what he does not have. Was it all pre-ordained by the shenanigans in that month of December 2003?
I also have question why George Copely is having so much to say over the head of the Special Prosecutor - hmmmmmm.
This trial had better go ahead or there will be a revolt from the people of this Province like never before. The depth of the rotten dealings that the Raid has divulged to date IS very scary. I for one, have had enough.
Was it the completed 'sale' of the Freight Division or the upcoming second deal for the Roberts Bank properties...or was it something else - something that is hiding in those piles of documents (or maybe even in something Bill Tieleman doesn't even realize he possesses for that matter) that makes it so vital that certain bits of information not already exposed DO NOT COME TO LIGHT in open court?
Actually, her work record is rather good. She served all classes of private clients, and appealed several cases on principle. Law firms do not routinely assign appeals to someone of her youth, but she obviously impressed her bosses.
As a prosecutor, she handled 3 prosecutions of cops (Langlois, Coquitlam RCMP; Dosanjh, Victoria PD; Stewart, Vancouver PD). She was anything but lenient.
Normally, prosecutors are cop doormats. Winteringham has proven otherwise. Given the pollution of the Bench by Administrative Lawyers - this has accelerated with the loathsome, Wally Oppal in the AG office, with Alan Seckel (yet another AL rights butcher) in his Deputy role - I still suspect that Winteringham can be leveraged. However, I can't accuse her of lack of public purpose, since her record suggests otherwise. We'll see.