Friday, November 28, 2008

 

Top Court agrees to hear appeal in corruption trial

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The Globe and Mail (Nov. 28): Top Court agrees to hear Appeal in corruption trial. By Mark Hume.

VANCOUVER -- A political corruption trial that was expected to start before the spring provincial election in British Columbia will be delayed by a Supreme Court of Canada decision handed down yesterday.

The country's top court agreed to hear an appeal from prosecutors in the trial of Dave Basi and Bobby Virk. Although it's unclear just how long the trial will be delayed by the ruling, the NDP's justice critic, Leonard Krog, said it will probably set things back several months.

"It would be a miracle if this trial started before the election [in May]," Mr. Krog said.

"This appeal will cause a significant delay and that means the provincial Liberals will go into the next election with a cloud of suspicion hanging over their heads," he said. {Snip} ...

"This Crown will not breach this privilege in this case ... we will not resile from this position," Mr. Berardino said earlier this year before the B.C. appeal court.

Mr. Berardino later refused to elaborate on that comment, which generated speculation the Crown might give up its case before identifying the police informant.

He said earlier this week, however, that regardless of how the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately rules on the matter, the Crown will do everything it can to pursue the prosecution.

Mr. Krog was critical of the Crown for appealing to the nation's Supreme Court, saying it is in the public interest to get the case to trial, so the public can learn all the facts ...

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The Province (Nov 28) Top court to hear appeal in BC Rail Case. By Keith Fraser.

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Vancouver Sun (Nov 28) Basi-Virk takes a Dickension twist. By Ian Mulgrew. [Holy smoke, Ian, that's putting it straight! Good on you. Plus there's a time-line for the Basi-Virk trial. Recommended. - BC Mary.]



Basi-Virk trial takes a Dickensian twist
Proceedings in influence-peddling case reveal judicial rot of our times, leave voters to wonder

Ian Mulgrew
Vancouver Sun

Think of the B.C. legislature as Bleak House after a Supreme Court of Canada ruling Thursday agreeing to referee a pre-trial squabble involving the unprecedented Christmas 2003 raid of government precincts and Liberal cabinet offices.

For five years, a special prosecutor has been shadowboxing with defence attorneys about revealing documents at the heart of serious corruption allegations and the informant who triggered RCMP charges that organized crime had infiltrated the highest levels of government.

Now the Supreme Court has waded into the mire -- and the result may be that we never learn what transpired during the $1-billion sale of BC Rail, a major privatization initiative of Premier Gordon Campbell's first term.

As is tradition, the Supreme Court provided no reasons for granting special prosecutor Bill Berardino a chance to argue defence lawyers should be blocked from learning the name of a police informant -- though they vow never to reveal it.

That process will further bog down the trial of former provincial Liberal insiders Dave Basi and Bob Virk, accused of influence peddling.

The Supreme Court will conduct an expedited hearing this spring, but the nine justices will probably require months to render judgment on an issue Berardino says could affect police across Canada and their relationships with confidential informants.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett ruled that if they vowed never to reveal anything to their clients, Basi's and Virk's defence counsel could attend an in camera hearing about the informant and other issues.

The private proceeding without the accused is seemingly necessary because the prosecutor can't talk about anonymity without fear of providing a clue that might reveal the informant's identity.

But defence lawyers, who are also officers of the court, argued they should be there to protect the rights of their clients.

Justice Bennett agreed, as long as the lawyers gave undertakings not to reveal what they heard.

Berardino said forget it -- adding he'd rather let Basi and Virk walk than risk his informant's identity at such proceedings.

Berardino insinuated he would throw in the towel if the Supreme Court of Canada upholds Justice Bennett's decision.

Just as the classic novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens exposed the injustice of the interminable process of 19th-century English courts, these proceedings reveal the judicial rot of our times.

All of this should have been thrashed out years ago. The trial should have been over years ago.

This latest delay turns the entire case into a festering indictment of the legal system -- imagine allowing such an important prosecution to moulder!

And there is a growing likelihood we're not even going to see a trial.

I expect we'll be back a few years from now in front of the Supreme Court of Canada hearing arguments about why charges should be stayed because Basi's and Virk's constitutional rights to a trial without undue delay were violated.

This entire affair is a veritable thumb of the nose to our right to know what happened during the sale of valuable public assets and our ability to hold our elected representatives accountable.

Although Basi and Virk have been accused of accepting money and perks, no one has been charged with offering bribes. Why not?

As well, Basi and Virk were not fringe players, they were stars in the Liberal regime. That raises a whole host of other questions about political accountability and the way Campbell ran his first administration.

Given the high court decision, provincial voters will go to the polls this spring for the second time without knowing what went wrong -- if anything.

imulgrew@vancouversun.com

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Vancouver Sun. (Nov. 28) Dispute over informant goes to top court appeal. Neal Hall.

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Dispute over informant goes to top-court appeal
Further delay could mean the case, in which government employees are accused of corruption, might not begin until after the B.C. election

Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun

OTTAWA - The nation's highest court said Thursday it will hear an appeal in a dispute over whether defence lawyers should be excluded from an in-camera hearing about a confidential informant in the Basi-Virk case.

The ruling means the corruption case against former government employees will likely not go to trial until after May's provincial election. {Snip} ...

Berardino, the special prosecutor, said: "We're going to make every effort to make sure the trial isn't delayed."

But Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog said he was extremely disappointed by the ruling because it will delay the trial yet again.

He expects the Basi-Virk trial won't start now until after the election, set for May 12.

"British Columbians want to know what happened," said Krog, a lawyer and attorney-general critic for the NDP. "Justice delayed is justice denied."

If the trial is delayed until after the election, it will leave a "cloud of suspicion" over the government handling of the 2003 privatization sale of BC Rail, he said. {Snip} ...

The Basi-Virk case is in [Vancouver Supreme] court now for a three-week "vetting" application involving 305 documents still sought by the defence.

An estimated 700,000 documents have been disclosed to the defence so far. The disclosure process has dragged on for years, delaying the start of the trial, which is expected to begin next year.

The case was expected to resume in early January with the defence arguing a constitutional challenge against police search warrants and phone wiretaps.

The court was told this week that defence lawyer Michael Bolton has to attend his client Dave Basi's one-week preliminary hearing on Jan. 12 for an unrelated matter.

In that case, Basi is accused of defrauding the government and breach of trust in connection with the Sunriver Estates case, which allegedly involves land removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Two developers, Anthony Ralph Young and James Seymour Duncan, builders of Sunriver Estates in Sooke, are charged with breach of trust and illegally paying $50,000 to Dave Basi.

Young and Duncan were ordered to stand trial last July after a preliminary hearing.

nhall@vancouversun.com

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24 HOURS (Nov 28) Public's right to know off the rails. By Alex G. Tsakumis. Includes a major tribute to Bill Tieleman for his work on Basi-Virk.

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Comments:
can only open your site through proxy.org.

getting 'google rejected your API map request'

since there are no comments i guess nobody can open the site.
 
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Thanks ... been having a bit of trouble at this end, too.

I think it may be an Internet issue. Hope you'll keep trying

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I guess it's not so strange that the News coverage of this trial increases considerably when a decision comes down for the government (alias special prosecutor)

Hope this got through Mary.
 
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Yes, it sure did, Gary E. But have you noticed that most of the CanWest stories are like carbon copies -- duplicates -- so reading them is so boring your eyes begin to go out of focus ... and it's hard to remember.

So I've tried to pick up the columns which provide some fresh detail, like Bill Tieleman's ... and can't wait for Robin's.

I think Robin is taking time and giving careful thought to what he saw in court on Thursday Nov. 27 so that his next column should be extremely interesting.

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The Canwest Carbon Copies do one good thing for me. They cut down on my scanning time. And with dial up that's a blessing.

Without Robin and Bill's presence and reporting in the courts, I think we would be lost. I look forward to their posts. I also look forward to your questions. You have led me many times in a direction that I had not thought about. I don't think I will be able to make it to court even next spring so I hope that others who post here and live in Vancouver will be able to feed you their perspective on what is going on. I can tell you one thing I realized. It beats the hell out of watching TV some days.
 
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Thanks, Gary E,

and I can certainly return the compliment to you.

Discussion is good, no doubt about it. Lack of discussion about BCRail is what bothers me about the news media. It's a betrayal of that social contract whereby we all try our best to join in constructively on discussions surrounding important public issues.

The worrying lack of discussion on BC Rail goes, I allege, to questions of known standards of honesty in trade and commerce. Rules which are generally understood as: you offer a dozen apples for sale at $1., the buyer who trustingly pays $1. fully expects to receive a dozen apples. Not so with newspapers.

A newspaper can purport to be a newspaper and yet leave out whole big chunks of vitally significant news and information ... we still get to pay our $1. for each copy of that newspaper ... and (I allege) we're often being bamboozled.

It shouldn't be this way -- not when a province has 3 daily newspapers and a bunch of radio and TV stations. There should, I say, be some yardstick by which these "news products" are judged the same as apples or potatoes for fairness and accuracy of the advertised product compared to what the customer receives.

It's appalling really to think that citizens' efforts to be actively informed renders us little more than a vehicle for advertisers to use.

Me worry? Doggone right, I worry when British Columbians know more about a Coquitlam pig farmer and/or Paris Hilton than they know about the BCRail Case.

Doesn't that really mean that we could be watching corruption unfolding right before our eyes ... and for some mysterious reason, the general public isn't even aware of it?

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