Wednesday, June 25, 2008

 

Basi and Virk and Basi

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We know so little about them. And yet, Dave Basi, Bobby Virk, and Aneal Basi will go down in history for the profound impact they have had upon political life in British Columbia. Some background:
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'BASI'S BOYS' ROSE HIGH IN LIBERAL POWER CIRCLES

Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun - 2004 (exact date to be verified)

Their names have been associated with some of the most successful and controversial campaigns in Liberal party circles at both the federal and provincial level.

Now their names are also linked to a criminal probe reaching into the highest political offices in B.C.

They are a close-knit group of Indo-Canadian Liberal activists known to have delivered substantial Sikh support to Prime Minister Paul Martin's leadership campaign.

Since the police raids on the offices of ministerial assistants Dave Basi and Bob Virk Sunday [Dec. 28, 2003], many party activists are questioning their long-time association with a series of provincial and federal campaigns, including that of the new prime minister.

Basi, who was fired Monday from his job in the office of B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins, is a back-room organizer responsible for signing up thousands of new party members, along with his long-time associates, including Virk, a relative of Basi's through marriage.

Both men under investigation are linked to a slew of high-profile Indo-Canadian organizers, including Amar Bajwa, who was regional director of Martin's B.C. campaign, as well as Savik Sidhu, who works in the premier's office.

Greg Wilson, a former member of the B.C. Liberal executive who was part of Sheila Copps' federal campaign, said the young Martin organizers -- referred to by insiders as "Basi's boys" -- are hugely influential.

"They have been paid organizers for the federal Liberal party. One of them, I know, was a paid organizer for the provincial Liberal party. They've been paid organizers for the Paul Martin campaign. Presumably that has given them some influence and some stature," Wilson said. "The people at the top of the pyramid are so seduced by the power that these individuals give them that they chose to reward these people and hire their acolytes to do the organizing."

Basi has been a major Liberal force on southern Vancouver Island for years. In his federal riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, he successfully took over the executive beginning in 1996, a former riding president said Monday.

Kit Spence, who no longer holds an executive position, said Basi is a "back-room guy" who controls which candidates are nominated and who is elected to executive positions in the party, through the large number of members he's signed up.

"He is able to bring out members of the Sikh community and sign them up as members and get them to vote in a particular way. So he is powerful and influential in that he can bring numbers to the table. That's his expertise," Spence said.

"He's able to go out and sell memberships to those people and bring them out when it counts.

Spence said there were complaints from some party members in 1996 about Basi's tactics, but "the results wouldn't have changed one way or another."

"Dave was instrumental in generating support for the winning candidate and getting his people out," he said.

That same expertise was used for Martin's campaign. Spence said the Saanich riding association has between 1,200 and 1,500 members, about half of whom are Indo-Canadian. Most of those were signed up by Basi and his people, he said.

"Some people complain about that, but it is a legitimate part of the political process. The guy who's got the most numbers wins and David was able to organize people, sell memberships and get them to come to vote."

Basi's boys were there at the Young Liberal convention at the University of Victoria in the spring of 2002. They brought in busloads of new youth to the party and beat out the rival candidates for executive positions. But it wasn't without controversy.

Complaints were made to the party that some of those brought to the meeting weren't legitimate members. Other rumours swirled that some had been lured by an under-age drinking party held afterwards. The allegations were dismissed by an internal party review.

Marco Dekovic, an active Young Liberal supporting Allan Rock at the time, said he found a lot of the tactics of the Basi boys and other Martin campaigners aggressive.

"There was a bit of a democratic deficit," he said Monday. "Within the Young Liberals they were pretty strong . . . I think they were more back-room kind of organizers."

The Basi boys, most of whom are in their 20s and attended UVic, were also very involved in the takeover of the Vancouver South riding of federal MP Herb Dhaliwal by Martin supporters.

The pro-Martin candidate now seeking the nomination in the riding is Shinder Purewal, who did not return repeated calls Monday.

Peter Dhillon, a friend of Dhaliwal's who is active in the riding, said Purewal should publicly explain his connection to those now under investigation.

Dhillon said he has been inundated with calls from many concerned Liberals who now want a review of what is going on.

"It's important for the party that his [Martin's] leadership handle this very quickly," Dhillon said.

He said a new membership sign-up process was put in place some time ago to protect against abuse.

"This could potentially be the worst abuse of all. I don't think our prime minister would support something like this and am sure he would want to get to the bottom of this."

Randeep Singh Sarai, the candidate running in Vancouver South against Purewal, said there were many irregularities in the take-over of the riding association, though the party dismissed complaints.

He called the developments Sunday "disturbing" and said they impact on the entire federal party.

"It is the whole Liberal family that is affected by it. There is no doubt it is going to hurt the Liberal party until there is some clarity on it -- on who is involved and exactly what happened," Sarai said.

The criminal probe makes him more concerned about some of the allegations that have surfaced in the riding.

"If people involved in criminal activity are involved in the Liberal party and in the ridings associations, it is definitely a concern for everyone," Sarai said. "It is a distortion of the democratic process."

Sarai said most of the information circulating consists of still unconfirmed rumours, albeit troubling ones about links to drug dealing and money laundering.

{Snip} ...

Wilson said the federal party has moved to an almost all-cash system for membership fees and delegate expenses, instead of the prior practice of cheques or credit payments.

Financial statements used to be presented to riding associations meetings regularly, he said.

"People associated with the Martin campaign have rolled back that accountability and the financial statements are no longer provided at conventions to party members," he said. "We've moved backwards and the effect is that disturbing links and allegations like these are given credibility that we are not more accountable and more transparent."

Wilson said the party must take immediate action to deal with the financial issues, as well as the powerful influence of the Basi boys.

"What you have here is a system where a group of people seem to have been rewarded with organizing jobs or what have you based on their faction's ability to sell memberships, and it doesn't appear to be in the interests of the Liberal Party. It is certainly not in the public's interest."

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LIVES OF BASI AND VIRK INTERTWINED LONG BEFORE THE LEGISLATURE RAIDS

Lori Culbert and Jim Beatty
Vancouver Sun, Jan. 10, 2004

The families of Dave Basi and Bob Virk, the two ministerial assistants at the centre of the legislature raids, are long-time friends who own a business and two real estate properties together.

And the two men are now related after marrying two women who are either sisters, according to some sources, or close cousins, according to others who know them.

The lives of Basi and Virk were intertwined long before a drug and organized crime investigation resulted in the Dec. 28 legislature raids, which shoved both men on to the front pages of newspapers. The next day, Basi was fired from his post as ministerial assistant to Finance Minister Gary Collins, and Virk was suspended with pay from his job as ministerial assistant to Transportation Minister Judith Reid.

Real estate documents show Basi's paternal grandfather, Harjinder Basi, and his two paternal uncles opened a convenience store in Victoria called B&V Market with Virk's parents in January 1986.

The store, located in a red brick building on Quadra Street, is still operating.

Basi's two uncles, Amar and Bachittar, described in real estate documents as a postal worker and a businessman respectively, also own two condominiums in a high-rise apartment building on Hillside Avenue in Victoria with Virk's parents, listed as a businessman and a cook.

In 2003, one condo was valued at $133,700, and the other at $115,400.

Also part owners of the condos are family friends Jaswant and Gurpal Purewal, who are said to be a businessman and a government worker.

No one in the Basi, Virk or Purewal families, all of whom live in Victoria, would agree to be interviewed Friday.

The legislature raids followed a 20-month investigation by Victoria police (ref. Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill) and the RCMP that involved drugs, organized crime, commercial crime and police corruption.

In all, nine search warrants were executed at seven premises Dec. 28, including the the legislature offices of Basi and Virk, as well as Basi's Victoria home.

No charges have been laid.

Police released few details of the probe, and the information in the search warrants has been sealed by the courts.

On Friday, The Sun, quoting sources, reported that the RCMP is investigating whether Basi was involved in a cross-border drug-trafficking scheme and/or breached the public trust in his handling of the province's privatization of BC Rail.

In response, Basi's lawyer, Chris Considine, issued a brief statement Friday refusing to comment on specifics of the police investigation.

Considine said "it would be inappropriate and unfair to speculate on what the police may or may not be investigating."

The statement reiterated that Basi said he has not done anything wrong and expects to be exonerated.

Basi's father, Gurnam, died in a 1976 car accident, when his son was only nine years old.

Gurnam Basi, a sawmill worker at Sooke Forest Products, was 38 when the car he was driving slid off a wet road and hit a power pole, according to newspaper stories at the time.

He left an estate worth $138,472 -- about half personal property, and the other half insurance policies -- for his widow and his two sons, nine-year-old Udhe (Dave) and four-year-old Bhinder (Ben), according to probate documents.

The documents indicate Gurnam and Sukhbir Basi were married for 16 years, but lived apart between 1962 and 1965, when the husband came to Canada and the wife stayed behind in India.

After Gurnam's death, Dave Basi, his wife Inderjit and his mother Sukhbir went on to amass their own real estate portfolio.

Between them, they own four houses in Victoria valued at more than $1.2 million in 2003. However, they are carrying a mortgage on each property.

Basi, who has a young son and daughter, earned about $66,000. His wife is a civil servant who works part-time as a customer service representative in the ministry of community, aboriginal and women's services. His mother is listed in real estate documents as a chambermaid.

When asked how Basi could afford his real estate purchases, Collins, the finance minister, told The Sun "my understanding is his grandfather had a sawmill in Victoria and the family has had resources over the years."

But when reached on the phone Friday, Harjinder Basi, Dave Basi's grandfather, confirmed he never owned a sawmill. He worked for more than two decades at a sawmill in Esquimalt, before retiring in the mid-1980s.

Collins' misinformation about Basi's past is surprising, considering the two have been friends since meeting in early 1993.

Basi, who graduated in 1992 with a political science degree from the University of Victoria, had been chosen as a legislative intern and was assigned to help the B.C. Liberal caucus with research, speech writing and preparing queries for MLAs to ask in Question Period.

Following the six-month internship, which ended in June 1993, Basi landed a job with the small business ministry.

Collins and Basi maintained their friendship and shared mutual interests in federal politics. Both are federal Liberals who were involved in the Young Liberal Association.

Basi worked as a civil servant in the bureaucracy until June 2001, when Collins encouraged him to take a political posting as his top aide, responsible for Collins' role as house leader.

Collins had met Basi's wife Inderjit on a couple of occasions, had received the odd ride in Basi's Jeep and had even attended the first birthday party of Basi's son.

Although they were friends, and Basi was always a staunch defender of Collins, they didn't socialize significantly.

In recent years, Collins was rarely seen in the legislature without Basi by his side. Although Basi didn't attend cabinet meetings or treasury board meetings, he ushered Collins to those meetings and sat in on a host of other ones.

Specifically, Basi was the person who scheduled when legislation would enter the house and when debates would be held, and was the main link between the government and the New Democratic Party opposition.

Because of his central role, Basi regularly dealt with all cabinet ministers, Liberal backbenchers and the NDP, and he regularly promoted the government's agenda in discussions with reporters.

Collins has said Basi would not have had access to any budget documents, attended no budget meetings and would not have had access to draft legislation.

Collins said the only document Basi might have had, which could be considered highly sensitive, was a list of new laws that are to be introduced in the coming legislature session, which is to start Feb. 10 [2004].

In the halls of the legislature, Basi was gregarious, known to all and highly regarded.

While Basi was the outgoing extrovert, Virk passed through the legislature halls barely noticed. Short, stocky and quiet, Virk regularly flanked his boss, Reid, but rarely stopped to chat.

Known to all as "Bobby," Virk is well regarded by those who work in the legislature who called him friendly, hard-working and likable.

Raised in Victoria, Virk was educated at the University of Victoria and is known as one of Basi's Boys, one of many young Indo-Canadian men who are active in Liberal politics, federally and provincially.

He began working for the Opposition Liberals as a low-ranking political aide in 1997. He later became a legislative assistant, providing support, research and advice to the politicians.

In the spring of 2000, Virk left the Liberal caucus in Victoria and joined the B.C. Liberal party itself, working as an election organizer.

Following the May 2001 election when the Liberals swept to power, Virk became the ministerial assistant to Reid.

Virk's parents, Sudershan and Surinder, own a $427,000 house in Victoria. No other records of real estate owned by the Virk family could be found.

After Gurnam's death, Dave Basi, his wife Inderjit and his mother Sukhbir went on to amass their own real estate portfolio.

Between them, they own four houses in Victoria valued at more than $1.2 million in 2003. However, they are carrying a mortgage on each property.

Basi, who has a young son and daughter, earned about $66,000. His wife is a civil servant who works part-time as a customer service representative in the ministry of community, aboriginal and women's services. His mother is listed in real estate documents as a chambermaid.

When asked how Basi could afford his real estate purchases, Collins, the finance minister, told The Sun "my understanding is his grandfather had a sawmill in Victoria and the family has had resources over the years."

But when reached on the phone Friday, Harjinder Basi, Dave Basi's grandfather, confirmed he never owned a sawmill. He worked for more than two decades at a sawmill in Esquimalt, before retiring in the mid-1980s.

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The 6 ft. 1 in. soccer player -- cousin Aneal Basi -- isn't always mentioned. But he was the 3rd man arrested as a result of the police raids on the B.C. Legislature. At trial, the former Public Affairs Officer will be asked critical questions about the money trail:

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LOBBYISTS PAID $30K TO B.C. OFFICIALS: WARRANTS

Canadian Press - Updated Mon. Apr. 3 2006

VANCOUVER -- Two lobbyists paid almost $30,000 to three B.C. government officials in exchange for government information to help one of their clients, according to search warrant material released Monday.

In another dramatic twist, scant hours after the warrant information was released, one of the three government officials was hit with four new Criminal Code charges. The warrant material was granted by a court in 2004 and is part of an investigation that has resulted in charges against the three.

There were four separate applications by the RCMP in 2004 to obtain search warrants.

In one application, the Crown contends Dave Basi accepted a benefit from Erik Bornman and committed a breach of trust. That application alleges that Bornman "received information and documents from Dave Basi in exchange for payments which were made to Aneal Basi for forwarding to Dave Basi."

Another application alleges that Dave Basi received the money from Bornman in return for Basi's referring clients to him and assisting him with "matters of government."

Dave Basi was a ministerial assistant for former finance minister Gary Collins. Aneal Basi was a public affairs officer in the Transport Ministry.

The warrants allege that Aneal Basi passed funds from Bornman to Dave Basi.

"These funds were in the form of cheques written to Aneal Basi, deposited to the account of Aneal Basi, and it is believed, disbursed to David Basi as part of the arrangement with Erik Bornman," the court documents allege.

{Snip} ...

The investigation, according to the documents, uncovered several cancelled cheques through 2002 and 2003, most of them payable to Aneal Basi.

The court documents alleged the cheques payable to Aneal Basi "demonstrated a pattern of deposits into the accounts of David Basi immediately or shortly after a cheque to Aneal Basi was written and cashed."

Aneal Basi's lawyer, Joe Doyle, said he is confident his client will be acquitted of the two counts of money laundering he faces.

"He didn't launder any money. He denies those charges."

Last week, Justice Elizabeth Bennett ruled the media would be allowed to look through the search warrant information used in connection with a 2003 raid on the B.C. legislature.

The release was delayed because she said heavy editing was necessary to delete some information in the interests of a fair trial.

{Snip} ...

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Comments:
Is it too late to ask why on November 28, 2005 Minister Kevin Falcon was busy accepting the 2005 Gold Award for the Sea-to-Sky Highway corridor Project Financing on behalf of the Transportation ministry, Partnerships BC and Macquarie North America Ltd. ?


To backtrack a touch, on December 21, 2004, Sean Holman of Public Eye wrote "Senior aides face criminal charges" where RCMP Cst. Andrew Thomas Cowan ("Informant") laid out the legal groundwork against David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi. ("Macquarie", where does it fit in with the raid on the BC Legislature? If anyone has forgotten, Cst. Cowan makes it quite clear by listing off Macquarie North America Ltd before OmniTRAX Inc. and even before CN Rail)

"Count 10

Udhe Singh (Dave) BASIS and Bobby Singh VIRK, between the 1st day of January, 2003 and the 28th day orf December, 2003, at or near Victoria, or elsewhere in the Province of British Columbia, did by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, defraud(1)Macquarie North America Ltd. and OmniTRAX Inc.,(2)a consortium which included Canadian National Railway Company, Canadian Pacific Railway and the Vancouver Port Authority,(3)TD Securities Inc., and(4)the Government of British Columbia, of an amount exceeding $5,000.00, by recklessly putting at risk the bidding process for the Port Subdivision of BC Rail in disclosing to interested third parties confidential government documents and confidential government information including Cabinet confidences, contrary to Section 380(1)(a) of the Criminal Code."

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Back in those good old days though, we had an Attorney-General that didn't mince words. He didn't know how to say "No Comment" (perhaps he should have).

Sean Holman did a marvelous job of recording AG Geoff Plant's exact words in a scrum and he did it right below "Count 12" (in other words, earlier in his busy day):

.......Media: "To the best of your knowledge Geoff, when it comes to information about the charges, who else was aware of what was going to happen and when were they aware?"

Attorney General Plant:" To the best of my knowledge, the solicitor general was aware earlier today because he called me."

Media: "But no one else?"

Attorney General Plant:" I don't know if anyone else knew that charges would be laid. I know that there were some folks in the premier's office who were aware of this sort of ticking clock on the fact that the special prosecutor had said he was going to make a decision by the end of the year. But that's the extent of what I know."

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For clarification via their own "Update newspetter", Macquarie is a P3 advisor to the BC government and in their own words on page 5, "Macqaurie is the financial advisor to Omnitrax" No BC Rail Decision yet


Quite the balancing act!
 
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NVG,

Terrific piece of work, thank you!

Yes, I've read that text before but you seem to have drawn new meaning from it ... !

Very special thanks.

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These articles raise a lot of questions. For instance were Basi Family friends Jaswant and Gurpal Purewal any relation to Martin supporter and current citizenship court judge Shinder Purewal. Also what are the maiden names of Basi's wife and mother?
 
And just to close the circle on NV Grumps story above....

If you go to Mr. Bornman's OmniTrax lobbyist card on the official BC Gov website and look at the bottom left you will also notice that, in addition to five cabinet ministers (one of whom was Mr. Falcon), Mr Bornmann also indicates that he also contacted the 'office of the premier' in 2003.

And who was running that office at the time?

Any guesses?

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Kudos Mary for your continuing detective work on this whole scenario that is tainting British Columbia. Key names always jump out as the detail is brought forward.

You wrote:

Basi, who was fired Monday from his job in the office of B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins, is a back-room organizer responsible for signing up thousands of new party members, along with his long-time associates, including Virk, a relative of Basi's through marriage.

Both men under investigation are linked to a slew of high-profile Indo-Canadian organizers, including Amar Bajwa, who was regional director of Martin's B.C. campaign, as well as Savik Sidhu, who works in the premier's office.


Further: Savik Sidhu worked as David Emerson's Western Policy Advisor in 2005 with the Fed Libs after Sidhu left the Premier's Office and before Emerson jumped to the Conservatives.

Nice post with direct links to Campbell's Office. I guess their motto is Let's keep it all in the family and everything will run according to plan

Also couldn't help but notice how in Harper's recent Cabinet Shuffle, Emerson dropped the Olympics as his responsibility.

Could dropping Vanoc from Emerson's corral like a hot potato have anything to do with the recent scandal surrounding Campbell's bagman and chief strategist Patrick Kinsella's apparent cozy relationship with David Emerson? Seems Kinsella could set you up folks for a tete to tete with his pal for a tidy little sum hmmmmm . . .

What else is lurking behind these connections?
 
Speaking of Shinder Purewall, I heard that the Martin government appointed him a citizenship court judge in reward for his loyal service.
 
The Kim Bolan article quotes Randeep Singh Sarai, who challenged Shinder Purewal for the Vancouver South nomination. It should be pointed out that once the Paul Martin team was in power, Sarai, a lawyer, was suspended by the BC Law society over a GST related infraction. I can't help but wonder if his outspokenness in 2004 had anything to do with it.
 
Savik Sidhu has never worked for the Premier's office or any provincial government ministry. Folks should check their facts.
 
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Anonymous 8:58,

It's hard to believe that your anonymous remark is more accurate than Kim Bolan's or this:


Both men under investigation are linked to a slew of high-profile Indo-Canadian organizers, including Amar Bajwa, who was regional director of Martin's B.C. campaign, as well as Savik Sidhu, who works in the premier's office.

Further: Savik Sidhu worked as David Emerson's Western Policy Advisor in 2005 with the Fed Libs after Sidhu left the Premier's Office and before Emerson jumped to the Conservatives.


Where did you check your own facts?

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It's true that Savik Sidhu was quite active on the Federal scene during Paul Martin's leadership and worked for Federal Cabinet Ministers including David Anderson, Paul Martin, Helene Scherrer, David Peterson and David Emerson. I know this because I was quite involved with the party at that time. What's mind-boggling is that everyone and their dog will blindly believe what's written in the media without having the ability to critically think on their own. As someone who was an "insider" or something that devious as many people think, the statement that Mr. Sidhu worked for the Premier's office is untrue.
 
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9:02,

I'm pretty sure that others (not just I) appreciate the information you are able to provide. Thank you for that.

But when you say something like this,

What's mind-boggling is that everyone and their dog will blindly believe what's written in the media without having the ability to critically think on their own.

it reduces the effectiveness of what you say.

Because the last time a dog was featured in B.C. Liberal news was when a dead dog showed up on B.C. Liberal Party membership lists.

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Ah yes, the dead dog. Good memory!

I also recall that there might have been deceased people that ended up on membership lists. To me that was plain wrong and unscrupulous. But I guess some people will resort to low levels to try and improve their self worth in political circles.

Good work on keeping attention on the Legislature raid file, which I can't believe has dragged on for so long. The truth will come out at some point I suppose, likely not before the May 2009 election.
 
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Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, but I think that dead dog was named "Greg" and that he received Christmas cards from the former P.M., Paul Martin. For 3 years ... before the hotshots caught on.

Why do people remember dumb stuff like that?

But please, say it isn't so ... that these %^&#@!! will be able to drag this trial out until AFTER the May 2009 election?

Y'know, if Basi and Virk are OK with that ... I dunno ... but wouldn't you think they'd start shouting from the rooftops?

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