Sunday, December 19, 2010

 

BC Rail: Lobbyist in Basi-Virk corruption case: his firm was paid up to $10,000 a month

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By Keith Fraser
Postmedia News - December 18, 2010

See the original story HERE, including a darling photo of Erik Bornman


A key Crown witness in the Basi-Virk case said his lobbying firm was paid up to $10,000 a month by OmniTrax, a losing bidder in the scandal-plagued sale of B.C. Rail, court transcripts that were released Friday reveal.

Under cross-examination at a preliminary hearing in Victoria in January 2009, Eric Bornman was asked by a lawyer for accused Dave Basi about the income earned by the lobbying firm Pilothouse Public Affairs.

Bornman said Pilothouse was at first paid $6,000 a month by Denver-based OmniTrax, escalating to $10,000 a month between May 2002 and November 2003, when B.C. Rail was sold to CN for $1 billion.

“All right, is it fair to say that it’s upwards of $200,000 of income in total from OmniTrax?” asked Michael Bolton, Basi’s lawyer.

“For Pilothouse,” said Bornman.

“Possibly more,” said Bolton.

“For Pilothouse? I’d have to do the math,” replied Bornman.

“Quite a substantial amount in any event,” said Bolton.

“Yes,” replied Bornman.

The former lobbyist was being questioned during a preliminary hearing for Basi and two developers accused of paying the former ministerial aide $50,000 to help remove farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve for a Sooke-area residential development.

At the time of the cross-examination, Bornman was under an immunity deal with the Crown to testify at the B.C. Rail trial of Basi and his co-accused, Bobby Virk.

Bolton asked Bornman whether there was any discussion with the special prosecutor to pay back the money he received from OmniTrax.

“Was it ever proposed that you should give back that money to OmniTrax or that there should be a forfeiture of that money to the Crown?” asked Bolton.

“No,” said Bornman.

“No one ever suggested that?” said Bolton.

“No,” replied Bornman.

In October, Basi and Virk pleaded guilty to providing co-operation and assistance to Pilothouse in connection with the sale of B.C. Rail’s freight division. They received conditional sentences and are under house arrest.

Court heard that $25,000 was paid by Bornman to Basi, through Basi’s cousin, Aneal Basi, whose money-laundering charges were stayed.

Bornman, whose deal called for him to tell the truth at trial, was expected to be called as a witness but the guilty pleas were entered before he could testify.

During the cross-examination before Judge Ernie Quantz in Victoria provincial court, Bornman said that he had never told OmniTrax about the payments to Basi.

Bornman admitted that despite the deal to be a witness at the Basi-Virk trial, he continued to earn money from his lobbying business until 2005, making up to $90,000 gross a year.

Bolton also questioned Bornman about his decision, after graduating from the University of B.C. law school in 2005, to move to Toronto and seek to article at McCarthy Tetrault, a major law firm.

Bornman, who had close ties to the federal Liberal party and at one point worked as a volunteer director of operations for the party in B.C., said he managed to get Tim Murphy, Prime Minister Paul Martin’s chief of staff, to agree to recommend him to the law firm.

“I asked Tim Murphy — who is an official in the Paul Martin government — if he would recommend me,” said Bornman.

“He was the chief of staff, was he not, of Paul Martin?” asked Bolton.

“That’s right. And I . . .” said Bornman.

“He agreed to do it,” said Bolton.

“He agreed to do it,” replied Bornman, who added he got a return call from the recruitment co-ordinator but didn’t get an impression the reference might help him that much further.

He said he assumed that Murphy was aware of his deal with the Crown.

The incident happened during a “very brief conversation” Bornman had with Murphy at a cocktail party in Ottawa, a reception for people who had given money to the Liberal party, he said.

“I think it was in the summer of 2005, but I’m not certain,” said Bornman.

Bornman completed his articles but has not yet been admitted to the bar in Ontario.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is expected to hold a “good character” hearing for Bornman in March.

In October, in the Agricultural Land Reserve case, Shambrook Hills Development Corporation pleaded guilty to paying Basi a bribe.

The company was fined $200,000.

The two company principals initially indicted had their charges stayed.

On Friday [Dec. 17, 2010], the Province newspaper obtained a copy of the 91-page transcript from the Bornman testimony at the preliminary hearing on Jan. 13, 2009.

On Monday [Dec. 13], following a media application in B.C. Supreme Court, full details of search warrants in the B.C. Rail case were released.

The warrants revealed that Bornman began paying Basi cash for political favours following the 2001 landslide election win by the provincial Liberals.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

BC Mary to Post-Media News, Victoria Times Colonist, Keith Fraser: please accept this notation as my request for permission to post this story in full, including credits. It is posted on The Legislature Raids for public interest entirely.

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