Tuesday, January 29, 2008

 

More than 100 e-mails missing, Basi's lawyer says

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B.C. Supreme Court judge telephoned fellow jurist asking about documents during disclosure arguments



VANCOUVER -- A legal battle over the disclosure of government documents took an unusual twist in the Supreme Court of British Columbia yesterday when one judge questioned another about more than 100 missing e-mails.

Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett of the B.C. Supreme Court, who is hearing pretrial arguments in a case that involved a police raid on the B.C. Legislature, told court that during a morning break she'd called Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm to ask him about the missing files.

"There are no documents related to this case in his office," she assured the court.

Judge Bennett said Judge Dohm, who handled the case before it was assigned to her for trial, told her that "nothing he received did not go back into the box," to be returned to the Crown.

Judge Dohm first became involved in the case when he issued search warrants for police to raid the legislature officers of Udhe Singh (Dave) Basi and Bobby Singh Virk, in December, 2003. At the time the two men, who subsequently were charged with fraud, money laundering and influence peddling, were ministerial aides involved in the government's plans to sell BC Rail.

Early in the proceedings, Judge Dohm was also responsible for vetting government documents, seized during police searches and over which privilege was claimed, to see what was relevant.

Defence lawyers have been arguing for more disclosure by the Crown, and yesterday Kevin McCullough, who represents Mr. Basi, told court that some possibly important e-mails appear to have gone missing.

He said the Crown's list of e-mails seized from computers in Mr. Basi's and Mr. Virk's offices does not match the record of documents sent to Judge Dohm by George Copley, a lawyer representing the Executive Council of the B.C. government.

"There are at least ... somewhere between 100 and 140 e-mails that Mr. Copley asserted solicitor-client privilege over that have not been reviewed [by the court]," Mr. McCullough told Judge Bennett.

Mr. Copley said he thought all the Basi/Virk e-mails had been put before Judge Dohm for review. But he couldn't explain the discrepancy pointed out by Mr. McCullough, except to suggest the judge saw all the files but only returned some.

"To say that Justice Dohm got over 200 [files] and didn't give them all back is outrageous," replied Mr. McCullough, who asked Judge Bennett to dismiss that idea out of hand.

She said she would check and made a call during the morning break.

"I don't think those e-mails ever went to Justice Dohm and that's the problem," Mr. McCullough said.

He reminded Judge Bennett the defence application is seeking disclosure of all the material seized from their clients by police.

"Those documents should be here right now," he said of the missing e-mails.

Judge Bennett agreed, telling Mr. Copley she wanted to see the material as soon as possible. Mr. Copley promised to get her a disk containing all the e-mails in time for the hearing to continue today.

Outside court NDP MLA Mike Farnworth said the case is an important one because it deals with allegations of political corruption in the Ministry of Finance, which typically works in lockstep with the Premier's Office.

"The Premier's Office and the Finance Minister are traditionally always very, very tight," he said. "That's why it's all the more important that this ends up going to trial."


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080129.wbcbasi29/BNStory/National/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20080129.wbcbasi29

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