Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Paul Martin, the Liberal Party and the Legislature Raids
Paul Martin, our former Prime Minister, is fading away just like other prominent, upwardly mobile politicians have faded ... a deputy premier of B.C., a B.C. Attorney General, a B.C. Minister of Finance, a B.C. Minister of Transportation ... all of whom were ambitious politicians ... all of them dropping out of government suddenly ... then fading away.
Two of their ministerial aides dropped out, too, but that's easily explained. Their aides were arrested. They stand accused of criminal offences which appear to have arisen out of their day jobs in the B.C. Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transportation. They face charges of accepting a bribe, influence peddling, breach of trust, 2 counts of fraud and, for a while, drug trafficking and money laundering.
So presumably, it was after hours, after their day jobs, that Basi & Virk worked hard on behalf of Paul Martin. Extraordinarily hard. Why? Because they had dreams of joining Paul Martin in the Prime Minister's office.
But we already had Jean Chretien, a competent and popular P.M. Not to worry, eh? Step One was to oust the sitting Prime Minister.
The Basi Boys crow-barred elected Chretien cabinet ministers out of ridings and replaced them with Martin cabinet ministers. All but one B.C. riding was Martinized by expanding Federal Liberal memberships, using a system of block voting, from 4,000 Liberal Party members to 37,000 members in less than a year.
"it is hard not to conclude that the Federal Liberal Party is involved ... the Martin Campaign owes the people ... an explanation," said Greg Wilson, former Liberal Party Executive. "Literally ... 30,000 to 40,000 memberships @ $10 apiece have been sold in the last two years" -- a $300,000 to $400,000. cash boost -- "and we don't know where the cash came from." [Global TV News 31 Dec 03].
It's amazing, the things that happened "in the past 2 years," since the BC Liberals gave British Columbia a change of government. The 2-person Opposition raised questions in the Legislature, but were easily shouted down by the 77 Liberal members of government.
Federally, the Opposition MPs in the House of Commons rose to demand that Paul Martin "assure Canadians his leadership campaign wasn't financed partly by drug money" while another Opposition member called for "heads to roll in the Liberal Party's West Coast organization." [Pot plot found in ex-aides' home. Basi top organizer for Liberals in B.C. 11 Jan. 2004, Montreal Gazette] But "it's entirely a provincial matter," shrugged Paul Martin, and left the nation to fret.
Back in B.C., longstanding Liberal supporters quietly hoped that the publicity brought about by the police raid, would force the party executive to reconsider their strategies. They told Jody Paterson [Times Colonist 9 Jan. 04] of a cadre of cosseted young Liberals, more or less under the guidance of Mark Marissen (husband of the B.C. deputy premier, Christy Clark) and Dave Basi, who toiled on Paul Martin's behalf in B.C. for almost a decade. Paterson said this: "...Let's put aside for a moment the rather striking fact that everyone whose homes and offices were searched 9 days ago are so connected to the federal and provincial Liberal parties that they're on a first-name basis with both the prime minister and B.C.'s premier ... " adding the Liberal party will not emerge unscathed.
Colby Cosh was more blunt: "Long before the police raids, senior B.C. Liberals had gone public with concerns about the party's gradual transformation into an ethnic racket ..." [The National Post March 2, 05]
There were several uncommon warnings: RCMP Sgt. John Ward explained the Ledge. raids the following day, saying that " ... in general, the spread of organized crime just in the past two years [i.e., since 2001] has been like a cancer on the social and economic wellbeing of all British Columbians. Today the value of the illegal marijuana trade alone is estimated to be worth in excess of $6 Billion [annually]. We are seeing major increases in organized crime related murders, beatings, extortion, money laundering, and other activity which touches many innocent lives."
"The rot is deep and ugly ..." wrote Robyn Mathews in the Columbia Journal.
Rich Coleman, B.C. Solicitor General, told the Vancouver Board of Trade that weapons being used by insurgents in Afghanistan were smuggled through Canadian ports and financed by the B.C. drug trade. [Petti Fong, Van. Sun., 31 Jan. 2004]
Then after the first month or so, the media went virtually silent. This silence was the starkest warning of all. It also explains why this Blogspot, as well as "House of Infamy" got their start.
For 29 months, the original Search Warrants remained partially closed, and neither Basi nor Virk came to trial. In a vigilant media, wouldn't this arouse fears, distrust? Month after month, it was as if the Legislature Raid had never happened. Saddam Hussein, arrested on 13 Dec. 2003, has come to trial months ago. But not Basi or Virk.
Vaughn Palmer, a year after the raid, called it "a case that raises all sorts of questions in the political realm without much hope that they would be answered any time soon." Without much hope? In a free and democratic society, that's a very strange comment from a respected journalist.
"The case is massive," says Michael Smyth (The Province, 2 Mar '04), "Lawyers with clients named in the warrants have been given between 200 and 300 pages of search-warrant material on a strict non-disclosure basis ... less than 20% of all the warrant material, so ... more than 1,000 pages of evidence that's being kept from the public. It's 1,000 pages that has both the federal and provincial Liberal parties shaking in their tasseled loafers ..."
Lawyers may be happy, but the public is left to fear the worst, wondering if an organized crime syndicate has taken over British Columbia. Perhaps even the judiciary? Do these dark forces explain how precious public assets were sold off? Is this why B.C. legislation is being passed, which would keep essential information secret? With $6 billion a year in marijuana sales alone, in B.C., isn't it fair to ask if this explains the money allegedly spent on electoral maneuvers which carried Paul Martin into the Prime Minister's Office?
There are people who could tell some parts of the truth of it: Sheila Copps, Herb Dhaliwal, former Liberal MLA Allan Warnke, and a number of past Liberal executive members who were forced out of various B.C. riding associations. Basi and Virk could explain. [In the same way that a former Attorney General, Alex McDonald, told the truth about Dave Stupich who, said Alex, was unfairly prosecuted; Alex was never sued by the dark forces he named.] Keith Martin and David Anderson should have consented to an in-depth media interview but apparently they decided to keep their heads down.
But we dare not let the press remain quiet. Or as manipulative as they were in the sundeck case.
If we do tolerate that, there goes honour. There goes public policy. There, warns the U.N., goes sovereignty if organized crime isn't checked hard, and checked early.
I'd like to end Part I of this commentary by reminding readers of this puzzling event, asking as they read this: why didn't the police stand back, put the ship under round-the-clock surveillance, then arrest the gangsters who showed up to take delivery of the drugs? Just asking. Just something else to wonder about.
MARTIN'S FAMILY VESSEL RAIDED FOR DRUGS
Halifax Daily News, July 1, 2004
83 kilograms of cocaine were found during a random search of the vessel
HALIFAX -- An underwater camera is credited with what's described as the fluke discovery of an attempt to smuggle millions of dollars in cocaine on a cargo ship named after the prime minister's wife and operated by the company he once controlled. Authorities suggest organized crime is behind an attempt to transport cocaine using the Sheila Ann, a ship operated by Canada Steamship Lines , the company Prime Minister Paul Martin transferred control of to his three sons last year.
Two duffel bags stuffed with 83 kilograms of cocaine were found early Wednesday during a random search of the vessel , which was carrying coal from Venezuela to Sydney for Nova Scotia Power. The camera discovered the drugs in a grate attached to the bottom of the ship , resulting in what customs agents call a "cold hit'' _ a seizure that is essentially a fluke, neither the result of criminal intelligence nor informants. "The security is not good ... there are not enough officers in Sydney to search a vessel,'' said Susan Horne, president of the Customs Excise Union in Nova Scotia, which represents customs officers. Members from the Halifax customs office were called in to assist in the search, but since Canada Customs does not have its own divers, Horne said private scuba divers were contracted to remove the bags. Once it was determined the bags contained cocaine, the unarmed customs officers at Port of Sydney called in police . "It's for their own security,'' said Horne. ``We don't know who put those drugs on. . . . Would someone be coming to the vessel that might be trying to retrieve those drugs? ''
A thorough search of the vessel followed, producing no other contraband and the Sheila Ann was allowed to leave port Wednesday evening.The RCMP reportedly estimated the street value of the cocaine at between $12 million and $14 million . Martine Malka, a spokeswoman for Canada Steamship Lines, said the packages must have been smuggled in from Maracaibo, Venezuela, the vessel's last stop before Sydney. She said four bolts holding the underwater grate to the bottom of the ship were removed sometime before the vessel docked, then replaced after the packages were hidden inside. "This cannot be done through the ship,'' Malka said. ``The only way this could have been done is by divers underwater.'' Horne agreed and said the drugs were almost certainly destined for Canada , as they would have interfered with the crew unloading coal in Sydney and would surely have been noticed. They were stuffed inside the grate where water is taken in to fill the ship's ballast for stabilization during the on- and offloading of cargo.
How the drugs made it onto the ship undetected is unclear , said Horne. "The ship's owner has committed to work to improve security for the vessel,'' she said. Michel Proulx, spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency, said it's not unusual for legitimate companies to be exploited by organized crime for the movement of contraband. Proulx said no charges were laid against the vessel or its crew. After handing over control of the company, Martin made it known he would not be involved in any dealings with it and would not be commenting on its affairs .
The Customs Excise Union says the random discovery points to a lack of marine security along Canada's coast.
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Part II, coming soon ...
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Remember those 27 questions?
SOME QUESTIONS FOR BRITISH COLUMBIANS
Six days after the shocking raids on the legislature, citizens still have been told next to nothing about the RCMP actions that have shaken the province's political life to its core. Here are 27 unanswered questions:
What triggered this investigation? - How closely linked is the drug investigation led by federal prosecutor Robert Prior to the investigation led by special prosecutor William Berardino? - What if anything is the link between drugs, organized or commercial crime to staff in the B.C. legislature? - To the federal Liberal party? - Who are the nine people recently arrested and why have none of them been charged? - What premises were searched on Sunday? - Who was arrested Sunday and then released? - Have other arrests been made? - Were other search warrants executed prior to Sunday's action? - Have any criminal charges been laid in either investigation? - If so, when and against whom? - Does the government know more than the public is being told? - How is the suspension of Victoria police officer Ravinder Dosanjh linked to this investigation? - Why would RCMP spokesman Sergeant John Ward choose a press conference on the raids at the legislature to say that "organized crime is a cancer eating away at the social and moral fabric of British Columbia"? - Does the fact so many individuals have connections to the BC Rail deal mean anything? - Has the investigation uncovered evidence that government policies or decisions may have been illegally or inappropriately affected? - Were phones at the legislature or politicians' private phone lines tapped? - Are there connections to Indo-Canadian gangs? - Other criminal groups? - Does it mean anything that so many of the individuals have links to the federal Liberal party, Prime Minister Paul Martin's organizing team in B.C. and his leadership campaign? - Why did a 20-month investigation come to a head on a Sunday between Christmas and New Year's? - Why was Dave Basi fired and Bob Virk only suspended? - Why would the government fire someone who has not been charged with any crime? - Have the province's $28-billion operations been compromised? - How long will this investigation cast a shadow over B.C.? - With so many unanswered questions, can the citizens of this province be confident in the government's ability to function effectively? - Will this affair adversely affect the province's economy and reputation?
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Ravinder Dosanjh on trial, uncovered by investigations that led to the Legislature raid
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
"Oh, god," a Victoria police detective sighed when accused of being partners with his cousin in a drug-trafficking organization uncovered by a skein of investigations that culminated with the raid on the B.C. legislature.
In a dramatic and riveting video recording made by the RCMP anti-corruption squad, Const. Ravinder (Rob) Dosanjh looked wan and drained when confronted with the results of a six-month investigation into his family ties and honesty.
He steadfastly maintained throughout the Dec. 15, 2003 interview with RCMP Insp. Don Adam that he did not compromise any case or leak information to his relative, accused drug-dealer, Mandeep Singh Sandhu.
"I'm not involved," Dosanjh stammered. "I know the difference between right and wrong. At least I think I do. I see what you got. It's not looking good."
He appeared devastated by the accusations.
This is the first of several trials that are in the judicial pipeline as a result of what is described as "a monster" of connected but independent investigations 21/2 years ago that triggered the unprecedented search of provincial government offices on Dec. 28, 2003.
Sandhu's home was raided Dec. 9, 2003, and he and eight others face federal drug conspiracy charges involving cross-border trafficking. Six days later, Dosanjh was arrested and suspended from his job with pay. A year later he was charged and fired.
Two weeks after Dosanjh was arrested, police, in an unprecedented move, executed warrants on the parliamentary precincts.
They charged Dave Basi, former ministerial assistant to former finance minister Gary Collins, in connection with the drug investigation and another separate breach of trust inquiry. Also charged in the influence-peddling case was Bob Virk, an assistant to then transportation minister Judith Reid.
Those trials are slated for later this year.
Tuesday, in the second day of his trial in Vancouver for obstruction of justice, Dosanjh sat glumly, his chin in his left hand, reading a transcript of the video as it played.
His wife Satnam sat in the front row of the small, deserted public gallery stoically doing the same.
Dosanjh appeared shattered throughout the interview.
From all accounts, he was a well-respected, exemplary police officer for 13 years.
He voluntarily agreed to the lengthy taped interrogation.
The video recording was played as part of a voir dire -- a trial within a trial, being conducted by Provincial Court Judge Carol Baird Ellan to determine if it is admissible as evidence.
Dosanjh maintained throughout that he was nothing more than a concerned relative trying to help his younger cousin escape a criminal lifestyle: If he made mistakes in judgment, they were because he faced a dilemma between familial loyalty and public duty.
During their meeting, though, Adam evoked from the surveillance and surreptitiously recorded conversations a more sinister picture.
Among the points in the prosecution's case is the fact that Dosanjh did not come forward and tell his colleagues he was related to someone they had in their sights.
"I don't know why I didn't tell anyone," he muttered.
In the eyes of the investigators, Dosanjh was less the well-meaning cousin and more a would-be consigliere providing advice on what to tell investigators, warnings not to talk on tapped telephones and providing a key tip about an impending raid.
"You loved [Sandhu] and you were trying to protect him," Adam said. "That's bad judgment, but you went further when you alerted him the search was coming."
The Mounties had deliberately fed Dosanjh false information about a looming, supposedly American-led raid on Sandhu's drug business in the hope of flushing out a dirty cop.
Within days, the prosecution says the Victoria constable called his cousin and afterwards Sandhu began dismantling grow-operations and apparently destroying evidence.
"You told him about the pending search," averred Adam, a 32-year veteran of the RCMP who is an interrogation specialist brought in to close cases.
"I did not say that," Dosanjh insisted, shaking his head and casting his eyes to the floor. "I did not tell him."
Still, Dosanjh looked more and more devastated as the interview wore on. "There's a lot of things that make me look wrong in this but at no time was I trying to stop him being investigated or charged with anything," he pleaded.
The intercepted communications suggested otherwise. After Sandhu's arrest, for instance, there was a flurry of phone calls and in one Dosanjh told Sandhu to claim the $35,000 they found in his home belonged to his dad.
"I don't think I crossed over," Dosanjh said. "I look like an idiot, it looks real bad."
"I don't want to play cat and mouse with you," Adam said incredulously. "I want you to come out of this with face, some pride. . . . You gave him that info. You did."
Dosanjh shook his head.
"Do you see what's happened to you?" Adam continued. "Mandeep has systematically used you."
"I see that now," Dosanjh acknowledged.
"Does any of that sound like good straight-up policing?" Adam asked.
"No, it doesn't," Dosanjh whispered.
"This [$35,000] is drug money he's talking about, and you're talking about it," Adam added.
Dosanjh choked up and, for a moment, it appeared he was going to break down emotionally.
"You okay?" the empathetic Mountie asked.
"I'm fine," Dosanjh replied. "It's probably drug money." He paused, then conceded: "I'm sure it's drug money."
"This sounds like you're partners," Adam said. "It's criminal is what it is. . . . Full partners' discussion, that's what this is. . . . It's beyond stupid."
Dosanjh said: "My head's spinning right now trying to recall. I would not tell [Sandhu] about a search warrant and jeopardize an investigation like that."
Adam held out the transcripts of the intercepted conversations and the two stared at them silently.
"You've been used," Adam concluded. "But you allowed yourself to be used and as we sit here we both know you crossed the line . . . . There is no doubt in my mind that you stepped into that criminal arena and breached your public trust."
"I thought I was helping him. . . . I'm not involved with these guys," Dosanjh pleaded. "I'm not making money off them. . . . I did not tell them about the search warrant -- I'd never do that. I'm not a crooked cop. There are no payoffs or anything like that."
"[The investigators] do know, trust me," he assured him.
"They're going to prove it. . . . The mistakes you made were small steps that led you into obstruction and doing wrong."
He stood up, ending the interview by extending his hand.
"Anyway, good luck, you take care," Adam said.
The trial continues.
© The Vancouver Sun 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
42 days until the trial of Basi, Young & Duncan
Victoria developers Tony Young and Jim Duncan also have both been charged with three counts of fraud on the government and one count of breach of trust.
The charges are related to a 650-home subdivision by Young and Duncan's company – Swiftsure Developments – in Sooke, just outside Victoria.
Basi is expected to appear in Provincial Court on 29 June 2006 ... unless there is a further postponement.
Given the relatively brief period of time since these new charges were laid, postponement seems likely.
There is speculation that this trial will be postponed until after the major trial of Basi, Virk, and Basi.
We should know, soon, if that's the plan.
Oppal: 52 organized criminal groups operating in B.C.
Det. Jim Fisher, a specialist on Asian gangs, had complained that police have lots of information about organized crime, but don't have enough resources to deal with it properly.
He noted that despite the city's massive population growth in the 18 years since he joined the force, the Vancouver Police Department has only grown by about two dozen officers.
"We know far more about organized crime then we have the ability to do anything about. Resources are at an all-time low."
Oppal agrees. He said more police officers are needed to fight the 52 organized criminal groups operating throughout B.C.
"This is a very, very complex and sophisticated form of criminal activity, so the police need more resources," said the attorney general.
Oppal said the provincial government is counting on a federal promise of additional funding for policing,in addition to the extra provincial money. However, he won't say how much more money police forces can expect.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Whatever the dangers of exposing the truth, they must be less than the dangers of failing to expose it
I don't think we should let the prospect of giving advantage to the Harper Conservatives deter up from pursuing this, however frightening the thought of a Conservative majority might be.
The reason Mr Harper is to be feared is the same as the reason Mr Basi and Mr Virk have to be brought into the light. Something is hidden there.
Since 2001 at least there's been this nasty little undercurrent in Canadian politics. Not just Federal, Provincial as well. Very suggestive things have happened all over the place, and with the mainstream press co-opted it's been damned difficult to get a handle on it.
But let's call a spade what it is for a minute here. There have been serious scandals. Huge financial misappropriations, procedural shenanigans, coverups that are suggestive of a dangerous change in the way things are done in this country.
This is no longer just 'business as usual'.
There were suggestions in the sponsorship investigation that there are now 'bosses' to answer to, to pay off in unmarked bills. There have been suggestions that BC Hydro was somehow involved in the huge Enron scam, and that was even before Campbell himself flew to the states to hire Accenture, so recently disgraced under the name Arthur Andersen Accounting.
Now from the RCMP, an honourable source, we hear the words fraud, money laundering, organized crime.
If even a few of these things have a basis in truth, the chance that they're unconnected is almost nil.
We have hold of the end of a thread here, in the Basi/Virk thing. If we follow it faithfully, it's quite likely to drag a whole lot of things out into view that fear the light.
I never really seriously objected to the 'practical' aspects of Canadian politics. It was always a pretty good way of getting things done, and we built a good country by it.
Now, money just goes away, while important things we thought we were paying for just shrivel up and are gone in the wind.
If there's even a chance we are being attacked by organized criminal interests, that must come to light.
Whatever the dangers of exposing the truth, they must be less than the dangers of failing to expose it.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Only 25 days + 6 more months until the trial of Basi and Virk ... maybe!
June trial for B.C. legislature raids dropped, December 4 court date expected
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
VICTORIA (CP) - Three former B.C. government workers facing corruption charges after police raided the B.C. legislature may not go to trial until December - three years after the dramatic search.
The trial of David Basi, Bobby Virk and Aneal Basi was scheduled to start June 5 in Vancouver, but after a hearing Wednesday in Vancouver, the date was postponed.
Judge Elizabeth Bennett ruled the Crown and defence need more time to review evidence. Both sides will return to court in Vancouver on June 13 to begin examining the evidence.
Special prosecutor Bill Berardino and defence lawyer Michael Bolton said there are massive amounts of information still to be reviewed.
"In the circumstances the trial judge determined that the trial should not begin on June 5," said Berardino. "The trial judge said the trial could begin as early as Sept. 1 and not later than Dec. 4."
Bolton, who represents David Basi, said the defence continues to review information it has been receiving from the Crown. The information is arriving intermittently and "highly edited," he said.
"The defence hardly ever thinks the Crown is co-operating the way they should co-operate, but there obviously is a tremendous volume of it (information)," Bolton said.
"I don't want to get into all the reasons at this stage as to the causes of the problems, but certainly in the most desirable world this process happens as expeditiously as it can," he said.
[Read the full story in Vancouver Province for 10 May 2006]
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Trial postponed again ... to December 2006
Bill Berardino, the special prosecutor for this case, needs more time, he says, to review "massive amounts of information." Massive amounts of information, he says, are still waiting to be studied. After 2-1/2 years. Unbelievable.
The judge has recommended the delay. But they all meet again on June 13 in Vancouver.
Meantime, back at the Legislature, the B.C. Liberal government is rushing through two shocking pieces of legislation.
Bill 23 is designed to maintain complete secrecy over the findings of any Public Enquiry.
Bill 30 is designed to maintain complete secrecy over agreements made between government and corporations.
These are head-spinning events. Time to get active.
26 more days until the Basi and Virk trial ...
A trial by judge alone (as this one is) takes less time than a trial before a judge and jury. Even so, it's expected to last 3 months: June, July, August (unless postponed yet again).
It's too much to ask of any one person ... but a group of volunteers sitting in one day, now and then, could do it ... and we can publish our on-the-spot reports right here.
This is an important trial for British Columbia. It must not slide by unremarked. The story must be told. We can do it.
Legislating secrecy as Basi and Virk trial approaches
Liberals plan to slam lid of secrecy. By Stanley Tromp.
Does anyone else feel that there's some significance in the timing for this BC Liberal legislation? Bill 23 imposes secrecy upon the findings of any Public Enquiry. Bill 30 imposes secrecy on various forms of agreement between government and business. Any provincial project in BC could become "the equivalent of the entire Quebec sponsorship program" by being marked "a joint service project", says Tromp, meaning that all information "jointly developed" could be sealed.
I mean, here's the BC Legislature, enacting virtual getoutofjailfreecards for the Gordon Campbell government just as the trial of Basi & Virk gets under way -- in only a matter of days.
Bill 30, as I read it, could inhibit what can be said in court about the financial affairs which led to the charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, and influence peddling.
There could (and should) very well be a call for a public enquiry into what happened to BC Rail and Roberts Bank, after the trial. But the findings could be kept secret under Bill 23.
I also see significance in the trial beginning on 5 June and the Legislature is being prorogued (shouldn't that be de-rogued?) on May 18. Gone for the summer. Most everybody on holiday. So perhaps the Basi & Virk trial will quietly slip by for 3 unnoticed months? Unnoticed by the Presstitutes?
provided this basic format for a class action lawsuit, as follows:
Where the devil is our loyal opposition? Do we have to do this ourselves?
How should we word it?
Bill 23 and Bill 30 are specifically designed by the BC Liberal government to conceal public information in a way which strongly suggests that it is intended to conceal evidence of misbehaviour if not outright criminality. And
The BC Liberals elected by the people of BC promised faithfully to maintain open and accountable government, and were elected on that promise. And:
No possible democratic government can be imagined that could survive these bills, which forbid the electorate access to information that would be crucial to them
We the undersigned call upon the Lieutenant-Governor of BC, the Premier of BC, and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of BC to call a general election at the earliest possible time, before said bills, or any such bills are brought to a vote.
Something like this ought to work ...
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Mr Basi, Mr Virk: you do have options!
As Dave Basi and Bob Virk approach their trial date on 5 June 2006, do they dream impossible dreams of a "Not Guilty" verdict? Are they expecting to be protected by powerful politicians? Or ... are they living in fear of becoming scapegoats who must carry the full load of blame for others who profited from things that went wrong in government?
It can't be an easy time for Basi and Virk or their families. So what are their options?
Their primary option, of course, was the honourable one: no deals, no hanky panky, no problems. But they apparentlly became convinced that the road to political success was paved with fraud, influence peddling, breach of trust, accepting bribes, and money laundering. Why was that? Basic and Virk were not angels. But in my opinion, they were never acting alone. They must surely have accommodated themselves to the team, the structure. We need to know all about that. All they can possibly tell us. That trial is where we can hope that might happen.
So now, everything depends upon how politically valuable these former ministerial aides still are.
They entered the B.C. Legislature as part of the Gordon Campbell regime and from Day One, they knew every political detail worth knowing: everything about the Gordon Campbell government, every decision, every important discussion, every going-out and coming-in. Their on-the-spot knowledge extended far beyond their Ministries of Finance and Transportation, beyond the B.C. Legislature, into the electoral process, right up into the Prime Minister's office. Top-rank aides like these are walking encyclopedias. Or time bombs. But are they unique? No, they are not.
Basi and Virk are not the first to be arrested and charged with allegedly accepting bribes to help sell off British Columbia's public assets. Consider Robert E. Sommers, a popular B.C. Cabinet Minister (1952-1956) under Social Credit premier W.A.C. Bennett.
Of course, Sommers made no small error. As Minister of Lands & Forests, he accepted bribes for granting a perpetually renewable Timber Sale Licence for half of the largest temperate old growth rain forest on earth, to a major B.C. forestry company (MacMillan Bloedel). Again, in 1956, he granted logging rights to B.C. Forest Products for the other half of this prized region known as Clayoquot Sound.
These licences alone were extremely valuable. The forest companies made huge profits on the sale of shares issued after each licence was granted -- before even a single tree was harvested. Soon B.C. Forest Products sold out to Fletcher Challenge, who sold to International Forest Products (Interfor) ... while, during the 1970s, clearcutting tripled in Clayoquot Sound.
The big money being made by corporate friends meant that taxes and royalties flowed freely into Socred government coffers. It is difficult to believe that this sweet situation developed without the knowledge and participation of many others besides the Minister of Forests.
Like Basi and Virk, Sommers was no career criminal. He had been a popular school principal in Rossland before entering politics. As Forestry minister, he stood out as a jewel in the Socred line-up of used car salesmen and bulldozer operators. Sommers was merely ambitious -- for himself, for his government.
It was extremely embarrassing for W.A.C. Bennett's newfangled Socreds, so recently elected on a specific promise that religious men like himself would free British Columbia from corruption. His Minister of Forests became a very big smirch on Wacky's lily-white new angel wings. What was a premier to do?
There was no denying the crime, not after the irrefutable old "Bull o'the Woods," the Liberal Opposition M.L.A. Gordon Gibson Sr. became the first accuser of Sommers. That put the handwriting on the wall: the Minister of Forests would have to pay the full penalty to ensure Wacky's triumphal escape.
Premier W.A.C. Bennett was thought by many to have been a political genius. It really was a marvel, how a small-town hardware merchant and former Progressive Conservative back-bencher suddenly got so smart that he could tap-dance like a madman, and pull his inexperienced Socreds through such a disgraceful chapter of government. The fact is: he did drag them through intact, although disheveled and besmirched.
Sommers alone took the blame, grumbling pathetically for the rest of his life that he had received no thanks, no apology, no reward for his selfless dedication. All Sommers received was jail-time during which, in the final irony, his wife worked in a sawmill to support their family. Basi and Virk should deeply ponder these points.
At Clayoquot Sound, there developed a 13-year period of intense conflict: blockades, court battles, confrontations in the woods, as people tried to stop the clearcut degradation of the rare rain forest which is home to the white Spirit Bear.
In 1996, the First Nations found a successful compromise when they invited all stakeholders to discuss peace and to pursue the development of a U.N. Biosphere Reserve proposal.
October 1996 saw 133 countries support the U.N. designation. Cloyoquot Sound -- about the size of Prince Edward Island -- became a U.N. Biosphere Reserve.
Why didn't Robert Sommers do the sensible thing 40 years earlier, and tell all he knew about his co-conspirators? Did he think the god-fearing Premier Bennett would reward his loyalty? Bennet never did. Sommers became an embittered, lonely man.
Basi and Virk don't need to make the same mistake. They should know that their best bargaining chip is their knowledge of the corruption within the B.C. Legislature. Unlike Sommers, they can turn this to their own advantage -- and to B.C.'s advantage too. Where W.A.C. Bennett created public assets sending money into government coffers, British Columbia today stands increasingly bereft of its public assets and the resulting revenues and employment.
Surely British Columbia -- through their lawyers, the Special Prosecutor, and the B.C. Supreme Court -- could develop an honourable plea bargain which would give Basi and Virk a new start in life, and would give B.C. the fresh start it desperately needs as well.
These two men may not be angels; but the reality is, they hold information of great value to the public interest. Perhaps the people must give a little, to get this information. Without it, the people must do battle again, as they did over Cloyoquot Sound.
British Columbia needs to know who did what crimes, how, when, why. Most especially, B.C. needs to know if organized crime is involved in our legislature.
The Criminal Code of Canada makes it clear that there are 3 types of bribery offences: to offer a bribe, to pay a bribe, to accept a bribe.
Rumour has it that those who allegedly offered and paid the bribes haven't been arrested and charged, but are being given preferential treatment in return for their testimony for the prosecution.
Basi and Virk must consider this. If their former colleagues do testify against them in B.C. Supreme Court (once again sell their information for personal gain) ... isn't it only fair that Basi and Virk should reveal their secrets too? For some kind of benefit ... to themselves ... but primarily to the public interest?
Basi and Virk were not angels. They did wrong. But without a doubt, others participated in those nefarious schemes. The people of B.C. should focus on these two men who are the key observers ... the ones most able to help us understand the whole sordid story of how we lost B.C. Rail, and more. Much more. Perhaps we should prepare to help them ... to help us.
Mr Basi, Mr Virk: that's the option. If you decide to put things right for the people of British Columbia, that way lies honour.
Surely it can't be the final legacy of Bennett and Sommers: that there's no stopping political corruption in this province?
Monday, May 08, 2006
The purpose of this blogspot
There has been little factual reporting of the raid and its implications despite the 27 Unanswered Questions published on the front page of the Vancouver Sun shortly after the raids. There have been few editorial or opinion pieces, little questioning of the shocking possibility that organized crime may have entered the corridors of government; or that crooks may have influenced government business. This unearthly silence in itself creates an ominous foreboding.
And so the topic came up for discussion on a Tyee.ca thread recently. With the trial approaching and still nothing in the media, intelligent people were saying we're helpless to learn the facts, if the mainstream press wouldn't do it. Doomsday scenarios were described, in which British Columbians were left in the dark like mushrooms, knee-deep in doodoo. Then someone flared off (it was me, actually) and said, "Jeez, we can't just lie down and die. Can't we do something? What about a web-site?" In an instant, the commentors were up and running.
There is another blogspot available, for which I thank Tyee commentor rkewen, who got the ball rolling. He named his blogspot House of Infamy, where you'll find Coyote's Open Letter to Basi & Virk, as well as two of my stories, and some press clippings. I hope others join the project, as well, because this is a deadly serious issue. I hope commentors will leave their opinions often. And that this whole sorry affair has a happy ending.
I would like to be very clear that this is not a quest for revenge or anything of that sort. It's a citizens' effort to understand what happened -- what brought British Columbia to the critical point where the R.C.M.P. had to intervene on 28 December 2003.
The police did the nation a tremendous public service that day, and when Sgt. John Ward explained things (somewhat) the next day. Now -- the way I see it -- Dave Basi, Bob Virk, and Aneal Basi are the point men, who can make it clear exactly what went wrong and then it's up to the rest of us to put things right again. For now, the main thing is to understand what that trial brings to the surface, beginning on 5 June 2006.
Why the trial of Dave Basi and Bob Virk is important to us
When police entered the B.C. Legislature with Search Warrants on a quiet Sunday morning, 28 December 2003, they made history. Never before in Canada had police breached the sanctity of the people's parliament.
Public shock deepened over 6 days. TV News cameras had shown the 20 uniformed sergeants carrying 32 boxes of confidential cabinet documents away from the B.C. Ministries of Finance and Transportation. But no premier, no prime minister stepped forward to explain the meaning of this shocking event. Both Premier Gordon Campbell and Prime Minister Paul Martin simply said, "I know nothing."
Had it not been for RCMP Sergeant John Ward, the public would have been adrift. But Ward spoke directly to the people of British Columbia, recognizing the public's need to know. As if he knew nobody else would tell us much.
He said a drug probe had triggered the raid on the legislature. He said that the suspects are alleged to have been involved in an organized crime network exchanging BC marijuana for U.S. cocaine which was then sold throughout Canada. The public later learned that cocaine profits buy guns - guns for the international arms trade selling into Afghanistan for example.
Sgt Ward estimates $6 billion a year is sucked out of British Columbia in marijuana traffic alone. Organized crime has so much cash, it's weighed, not counted; money-laundering is a major concern for the criminals.
Sgt. Ward added "... the spread of organized crime in the past 2 years has been like a cancer on the social and economic wellbeing of all British Columbians ... it has reached critical mass." There's so much more to this story.
" ... the rot is deep and ugly," wrote Robin Mathews in The Columbia Journal. "It suggests devious tampering with the very fundamentals of B.C. and Canadian democratic society."
Since the raid, almost two dozen criminal charges have been laid. Dave Basi and Bob Virk face 12 indictments, 9 of them linked to the bidding process for BC Rail operating rights. New charges have been added against Basi concerning Sooke property removed from the ALR for development. There are 10 drug-related charges against eight individuals.
David Basi, was a senior government aide to Gary Collins, Minister of Finance. Basi and his brother-in-law, Bob Virk, are charged with influence peddling, accepting a bribe, breach of trust, and 2 counts of fraud over $5,000. Basi was hoping for a Chief of Staff appointment with the new Paul Martin administration.
Aneal Basi, Dave's cousin, also faces a charge of money-laundering. It is not clear yet, if the sale of B.C. Rail was influenced or who offered money to influence the sale.
Constable Ravinder Singh Dosanjh now suspended from the Victoria police force, is charged with obstruction of justice in connection with this investigation. [Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun.]
Three B.C. Cabinet Ministers have resigned (Christy Clark, deputy Premier; Judith Reid, Minister of Transportation, and Gary Collins, Minister of Finance at the time of the police raid; Clark & Collins have left politics completely, they say.)
David Basi had a top-level insider's knowledge of every decision made in the B.C. Legislature. He had influence over both the provincial and federal wings of the Liberal party in B.C. A passionate supporter of Paul Martin, he'd been deeply involved in ensuring that several B.C. ridings returned Martin delegates. Liberal membership jumped from 4,000 to 37,000., a $330,000 annual boost in revenue.
Norman Spector and Gordon Gibson both made the connection that the kind of organization employed by the Martin forces “requires minions and millions. Even if rumours of drug money prove false,” TV commentator Spector said in January 30, 2004 Sun, “$12 million is an awful lot to raise for a leadership campaign.” Spector refers to “membership lists that include dead dogs - and people who can’t speak English, haven’t paid for their membership, and don’t know they’re members of the party.”
All B.C. ridings except one were "Martinized." A former Liberal executive officer added, in the December 29 Sun, that “They wouldn’t have had Herb Dhaliwal taken out without the Basi Boys.”
Elections Canada has warned that those who engage in “bulk purchase of party memberships could face fines and jail terms of up to five years.” If that places David Basi in peril, it also places Paul Martin, Gordon Campbell, and their Liberal campaigners in peril. The electoral process itself is in peril. This is why David Basi is so important to every British Columbian. And to every Canadian.
The Liberals "admit privately, the B.C. business is a time bomb for Prime Minister Martin. Up to now, the raids have been virtually ignored by media east of the Rockies ..." [Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star, 24 Feb. 04]
Properly understood, the threat is to the nation's ability to govern itself. British Columbians need to know whether Organized Crime is at work within their government.
"The topic is too radio-active to touch," one Sun reporter told me.
In his book about organized crime operating out of Vancouver, Terry Gould says " ... Interpol was now issuing warnings to the press and national law enforcement agencies that the criminal underworld seemed to be entering a new phase, one that darkly mirrored the transnational corporations leading the way in the trend towards "globalization." [Paper Fan, p.244]
Another book, The Road to Hell by Julian Sher and William Marsden, describes biker crime in Canada. To understand what organized crime means to the ordinary citizen even in Canada, these are basic reading.
The United Nations has warned the world that organized crime -- once it gains a foothold in any country -- is capable of destroying a nation's sovereignty. When that happens, the UN says there's no going back.
Citizens know there's something wrong. The public is not stupid, not apathetic. But they're frustrated when they want to find out what's really happening, and how to respond intelligently.
Saddam Hussein was arrested a week before the RCMP raided the B.C. Legislature. Was his case simpler than Dave Basi's? No. But Saddam came to trial weeks ago ... while British Columbia is still waiting to hear Basi & Virk's side of this story. It's been 2 years and 3 months.
What were the police looking for when they raided the B.C. Legislature? Was the sale of BC Rail legitimate? When other public assets were sold, were those deals tainted? Can the democratic process function if the public is kept in the dark?
It looks as if the next chapter of the RCMP's historic raid will begin with the trial of Dave Basi, Bob Virk, and Aneal Basi in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on 5 June 2006.
If you can't be there, be here. Watch for further reports.