Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Judge closes hearings in corruption case

The Globe and Mail - December 4, 2007

VANCOUVER -- A trial involving allegations of political corruption went behind closed doors yesterday as the Supreme Court of British Columbia listened to applications that were considered too sensitive for the public to hear.

The double doors of Courtroom 54 were shut by two sheriffs after Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett ruled against an argument by media lawyers that challenged an application by the Crown for closed hearings.

"I'm very alive to the public interest. That's an overwhelming concern for me," Judge Bennett said.

But she rejected arguments put forward by Roger McConchie, representing The Globe and Mail, CTV and The Canadian Press, and Heather Maconachie, for CBC and Global TV, saying she needed to balance the requirement for openness against issues that could compromise the criminal justice system.

Judge Bennett explained in broad terms what those issues were, but then placed a publication ban on all but the barest details of her ruling.

"There will be an in-camera hearing to review the assertion of privilege," Judge Bennett said.

She then closed the court to discuss issues related to the case against Udhe Singh (Dave) Basi, Bobby Singh Virk and Aneal Basi.

Dave Basi and Mr. Virk are former ministerial aides in the B.C. Liberal government, and Aneal Basi is a former public information officer. The three men are facing fraud, money-laundering and influence-peddling charges after a December, 2003, legislature raid by police investigating alleged corruption tied to the sale of B.C. Rail.

Remaining in the court yesterday with Judge Bennett was the prosecution team, headed by William Berardino, and defence teams led by Kevin McCullough (for Mr. Virk), Michael Bolton (for Dave Basi) and Joseph Doyle (for Aneal Basi).

Outside court, Mr. McConchie said the defence lawyers were being allowed to stay to argue their positions, during the first phase of the Crown application, but they might be asked to leave after that.

He said it is possible the next phase of the hearing could involve just the Crown and the judge, with everyone else excluded from court.

Mr. McConchie said if the defence lawyers are allowed to stay in court to hear the secret material being presented by the Crown, media lawyers might be allowed to return and make additional arguments.

"It's not over yet," he said, but added that, given the nature of the application, he didn't expect the court to be open. {Snip} ...

The case is seen as possibly damaging to the governing Liberals because Dave Basi and Mr. Virk were key backroom operatives, and it is thought the trial will expose sensitive political information.

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