Tuesday February 6, 2007
A strange guest
By BILL TIELEMAN
The art of being a good guest is to know when to leave.
- Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Erik Bornmann, the crown's key witness against ex-provincial government aides David Basi and Bob Virk in their bribery trial, was a guest at official Canadian state luncheons in Vancouver for Chinese President Hu Jiantao and Mexican President Vicente Fox in September 2005, 24 hours has learned.
Police allege that Bornmann provided compensation to Basi and Virk in exchange for confidential government documents about the $1 billion BC Rail privatization deal in 2003. Bornmann was a lobbyist for OmniTRAX, one of the bidders.
Bornmann's Vancouver home and the office of his Victoria lobby firm, Pilothouse Public Affairs, were searched by police on Dec. 28, 2003, the same day they searched the B.C. Legislature.
Former Liberal Party of Canada B.C. Chief of Staff Mike Witherly told 24 hours he was unaware why Bornmann was in attendance at both events, hosted by then-Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, or who invited him.
"No. I don't know. It was a large process," said Witherly, the former Chief of Staff for the LPC BC office who had also served as Martin's senior B.C. political advisor. Questioned further, Witherly only replied: "It was a large process."
Bornmann was a key organizer in B.C. for Martin's Liberal leadership campaign and a former LPC B.C. executive member.
Bornmann attended the luncheon for Chinese President Jintao on Sept 17, 2005 and Mexican President Fox on Sept 30, 2005. Both were held at the Westin Bayshore.
There also remain unanswered questions about Jamie Elmhirst, who resigned last month as LPC B.C. president but was subpoenaed to testify in the Basi-Virk case on Oct. 4, 2006.
Elmhirst was business partners in Pilothouse with Bornmann and Brian Kieran, who is also scheduled to testify for the crown against Basi, Virk in the April 2 trial.
Mark Grant, LPC B.C. Executive Director, told 24 hours by e-mail that the state luncheons: "Were not organized by the Liberal Party of Canada in B.C. I also want to point out that Mike Witherly was not in charge of LP CBC during that time."
Mark Marissen, who was federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's leadership campaign manager and now co-chairs the Liberal Party national election campaign team, said in an e-mail to 24 hours that he did not know about Elmhirst's subpoena to testify.
"I was first aware of it from your story in 24 hours," Marissen wrote. In response to a question whether he had at any point discussed the subpoena with Elmhirst, Marissen replied that: "Given that this is a matter before the courts, I did not feel it was appropriate to ask him about any details associated with his subpoena."