Friday, October 14, 2011
BC Rail case a betrayal of us all. Basi-Virk first anniversary renews calls for a public inquiry into the "sale" of BC Rail
B.C. Liberal government paid $6 million legal bills
By Bob Mackin,
Vancouver Courier - October 13, 2011
They come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but Vancouver commentators Bill Tieleman and Alex Tsakumis agree on one thing: British Columbia needs a public inquiry into the corrupt 2003 sale of B.C. Rail.
Tuesday [actually Monday, October 18, 2011 - M.] is the first anniversary of the halt to the bribery trial of ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk. On Oct. 18, 2010, they copped a surprise guilty plea to breach of trust and fraud, but the B.C. Liberal government paid their $6 million legal bills.
Read on HERE:
Back in the day, on Friday, October 27, 2010, Paul Willcocks wrote this column. It is re-posted here with his generous permission:
BC Rail case a betrayal of us all
By Paul Willcocks
Courier-Islander & Canada.com - Oct 27, 2010
The conclusion of the B.C. Rail corruption case smells.
The plea deal and the decision to spend up to $6 million of taxpayers' money to make it happen raise serious questions about both the justice system and politics in the province ...
it looks much like the government and the special prosecutor made it worthwhile for Dave Basi and Bob Virk to plead guilty to giving insider information on the B.C. Rail deal to lobbyists for one of the bidders.
The prosecutor agreed on a deal that would see the two men, former aides to Liberal cabinet ministers, avoid jail and accept fairly relaxed house arrest conditions. Basi is to pay a fine equal to the bribes and benefits he got.
And the government agreed to cover $6 million in legal costs for the defendants.
That's not the way it's supposed to work.
Government policy says - rightly - that if employees or MLAs are charged or sued while doing their jobs, taxpayers will pick up the tab. But if you're found guilty, you have to pay the money back.
That's what Gordon Campbell said would be the policy when Glen Clark faced criminal charges. (He was found not guilty, so the legal costs were paid.)
And it's the principle Rich Coleman advanced when he sued poor people for income assistance overpayments. Even if all they could do was pay $5 a month, Coleman said, the taxpayers should be repaid.
But when it came to the Liberal political aides, the rules changed.
And so did the government's story about the deal.
The two men couldn't pay anyway, the government said initially. It would cost too much to try and collect.
But the Globe and Mail reported the government had a mortgage on property owned by Basi. It could have recovered some of the legal costs - about $350,000 - simply by foreclosing. (It certainly would have taken that approach with a person on disability income assistance who owed $50, based on Coleman's statements.)
When the decision to cover the legal fees was announced, Attorney General Mike de Jong said he was not involved in the negotations but added "ultimately I am asked to endorse the recommendations" by the legal services branch.
But two days later, the government said the decision was made by the deputy ministers in finance and the attorney general's office. De Jong wasn't told until the decision was made, they said.
It also took two days before the government revealed that negotiations on covering the legal costs had started after Oct. 5, when special prosecutor Bill Berardino told the government he was negotiating a plea bargain.
Which seems entirely wrong. Special prosecutors are appointed in sensitive cases to avoid any perception of political influence in the justice system.
By briefing the government on the possibility of a plea bargain, the special prosecutor opened the door to political interference. [Emphasis mine. - BC Mary]
The government offered the defendants a choice. Fight on, and risk losing everything - including your homes - to settle the legal bills. Or walk away with $6 million in legal fees covered and get on with your lives. Just plead guilty.
It looks more like let's make a deal than the pursuit of truth and justice.
And you're paying the bills. Perhaps $15 million for the special prosecutor's law firm and the defence lawyers. A few million more for lawyers for Gary Collins and Judith Reid and potential government witnesses. Plus court and police costs - maybe $20 million or more, all in.
The government decided it was worth covering the legal fees in return for guilty pleas - before Gary Collins, Judith Reid, Basi, Virk, maybe Gordon Campbell, testified about the B.C. Rail sale.
But the government isn't supposed to have any role in this, remember. That's why there are special prosecutors.
Only thing is certain in all this - British Columbians are the losers.
Footnote: Gordon Campbell said this week that all questions have been answered and the two men acted alone. "They have said in their statement of facts explicitly that they acted on their own, no one else was involved or knew about this," he said. That's not true. All the brief brief statement of facts, negotiated by lawyers, says is that "Basi and Virk did not obtain the consent of their superiors to demand or accept these benefits." That's far from the sweeping claims the Premier has made.
By Rafe Mair
Puget Sound Radio - Oct 18, 2010.
... I, as a lawyer, feel sick. I kid you not, when I received the news I felt a wave of nausea.
Before going further, it’s not uncommon to “cop a plea”. It’s a gamble the crown and defense play when the Crown isn't sure it can make the charges stick, and the defence, knowing full well that they’re guilty as hell, wants to make the best of it. BUT, copping a plea usually comes at or near the beginning of the trial, not after years have passed and millions have been spent.
Now, if the accused were not guilty and at this advanced stage of the case Crown was unsure of its case, that would be one thing but for God’s sake, the accused pled guilty! Not to a reduced charge but what they were charged with!
What then could the Crown have been thinking? What motivated this bizarre quick ending?
I don’t know the answer but this much is true – the appointment of Mr Berardino in the first place has been criticized as putting him in at the very least a perception of conflict of interest ...
Read the rest HERE:
See also the Gary Mason column, The Globe and Mail April 10, 2009,
Peter Ewart's column for Oct. 19, 2010:
BC Rail Trial and the odour of corruption.
To conclude this look-back one year after the $20 million Supreme Court doors were slammed shut on the evidence we might have heard about the loss of BC Rail, I'd like to include the comments from some northern residents about the BC Rail which was so important to them. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the data, but I respect the anger people still feel, and the questions people still have. I do respect the passion behind these words:
From News 250, Prince George, by generous permission:
Posted by: Eagleone on Sept 29 2010
Exactly... IPG [Initiatives Prince George = IPG] mandate, if it has one, should be purely in the realm of facilitating economic development... not trying to manage the economy with a political angle to all their announcements. They have no part to make political announcements in private matters. If the politicians want to speak up, or IPG staff would like to as private individuals, then that is their prerogative.
I think at the cost of $20+ million over the last decade the city of PG got little to no real value out of IPG.
PG got a (property) tax payer funded group that spear headed the privatization of BC Rail (a completely corrupted process) [what group is that??], which led to the collapse of Mackenzie (rail car shortage in a just in time business)... we got an organization pushing downtown properties to the cities (home owner) tax payer... we got subsidized call centers and foreign airlines... and we got not one single tangible industrial success from their efforts of any significance worth noting.
What we have is people advising how to spend tax payer dollars, and advising how our economy should be managed according to insider politics... with little to no real accountability by the tax payers that fund this organization. Its like privatized government safe from freedom of information requests and real stakeholder transparency... a hidden layer of bureaucracy that PG does not need IMO.
Where is the accountability for their (IPG) support of the privatization of BC Rail now that the true purpose of having BC Rail has come to haunt both the union workers of CN, and the economy of Northern BC?
IPG already showed they work with the agenda of monopoly capitalists, and oppose free enterprise through their BC Rail gift to CN Rail. This situation is a result of the ideology that has come out in political announcements from this organization.
One thing that burns me about the BC Rail deal is the $2 Billion dollars in paper losses the government of BC created on BC Rail's books for tax purposes as part of the sale of BC Rail... so that CN could use these tax write offs against their profits to stiff Canadian tax payers for the equivalent amount that CN supposedly paid for BC Rail.... we gave it to them for free... a strategic asset critical to the viable sustainability of the northern transportation corridors... basically treason against our economy and for 999-years committed by ideology all on the take of our tax dollars... and IPG supported the sale of BC Rail as its biggest cheer leader despite the protests and public will against it.
This is what the City of PG tax payers pay for to the tune of $20+ million a decade.
You are indeed wicked but if you mean Krog not deJong, I must say that the image is rather pleasing. Or, right, wothehell, do them both.