Friday, April 27, 2007

Basi-Virk defence hammers at secret Erik Bornmann immunity deal to be key Crown witness, alleges it was cancelled over Bornmann actions at one point

AFTERNOON BC SUPREME COURT UPDATE

More fascinating defence allegations again this afternoon.

And you know there is blood in the water when sharks show up all the way from Victoria!

NDP MLAs Leonard Krog and Mike Farnworth, critics for Attorney-General and Public Safety respectively, attended court today to take in the proceedings.

Krog told me this afternoon that: "The Premier's office, the BC Liberal Party, the Crown and the RCMP all have a lot of questions to be answered about this case."

Kevin McCullough, defence lawyer for Bob Virk, raised several more issues this afternoon about the deal with key Crown witness Erik Bornmann, including detailed references to a news story I wrote in 24 hours newspaper last year revealing that Bornmann was articling to become a lawyer in the major Toronto law firm of McCarthy Tetrault.

Bornmann left McCarthy Tetrault after the story appeared. McCarthy Tetrault and Bornmann had at least one thing in common - their strong support for former Prime Minister Paul Martin.

McCarthy Tetrault donated over $100,000 to Martin's federal Liberal leadership campaign, while Bornmann was a key backer and organizer in BC.

Late in the day McCullough raised a controversial email alleged obtained from the computer of PilotHouse Public Affairs - the provincial lobby firm owned by Bornmann, former Province columnist Brian Kieran - another key Crown witness - and Jamie Elmhirst, former Liberal Party of Canada BC president, who has been subpoenaed to testify in the case.

The email between the three lobbyists allegedly discussing then-Deputy Minister of Finance Paul Taylor, now ICBC CEO, and how he provided advice to Kieran during a fishing trip on how to sign up the BC Automobile Dealers Association as new clients.

That email, leaked to me at 24 hours but not published, later found its way into the Globe and Mail newspaper. As I've previously reported, I have declined a request from the RCMP to tell them where I obtained the email.

More later at this blog.

EARLIER REPORT FILED AT 1 P.M.

The defence in the trial of former BC Liberal government ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk today alleged the Crown has deliberately refused to disclose details of a secret immunity agreement with key Crown witness Erik Bornmann.

And Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Virk, alleged in BC Supreme Court that Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino actually cancelled an immunity deal with Bornmann after the former provincial lobbyist implicated in the BC Rail deal told media he had been cleared of any wrongdoing by the RCMP and Special Prosecutor.

But McCullough says that ultimately the deal was not terminated and alleged that both the RCMP and the Special Prosecutor allowed Bornmann to falsely claim he had been exonerated in order to continue his highly-paid business lobbying the Gordon Campbell government for corporate clients.

These are defence allegations only, unproven in court and the Crown has not yet responded to them. The defence is arguing a disclosure application before Justice Elizabeth Bennett.

McCullough alleged that Bornmann's statement to media that he had been exonerated was false.

"Mr. Bornmann had bribed public officilas, had made submissions that he had committed criminal offences," McCullough alleged.

McCullough also alleged that the Special Prosecutor had been "stonewalling" all defence requests for details about the deal, why it was apparently cancelled in a phone message to Bornmann's lawyer and why despite knowing Bornmann had not been cleared neither the RCMP nor Berardino corrected the record.

"When the Special Prosecutor chose to cut the immunity deal with Mr. Bornmann they were obligated to disclose the details," McCullough said. "It's an absolute stonewall to providing that information."

On Tuesday in court Janet Winteringham, Berardino's associate, had objected to McCullough's characterization of Berardino's conduct in the case, saying it amounted to an allegation of "prosecutorial misconduct."

McCullough also said it was strange that the RCMP had never requested the financial or tax records of Erik Bornmann in their investigation.

McCullough said that Aneal Basi, a former government communications aide alleged to have laundered payments by Bornmann to David Basi for confidential government information on the BC Rail deal, was actually issued a T-5 income tax receipt by Bornmann but that was never sought by RCMP.






10 comments:

Gary said...

Bill, thank you for this report. For those of us who have to work and can't attend court this is very helpful to read. I have a question, how on earth can a person who has admitted to bribing public officials not be charged, continue to lobby the government and practice law. This defies logic if nothing else? Are we saying its okay to bribe public officials? Correct me if I am wrong but have we lowered the standards of conduct we expect from lobbyists and lawyers where it is perfectly acceptable to allow bribery? I need your help to understand this I am totally confused!

Is the campbell government so completely out of touch with what you and I would associate with decent and acceptable standards of behavior from lobbyists and lawyers? Maybe the Dobell controversy answers my own question. I need your help on this one Bill.

John said...

Bill, I heard from a friend who attended the hearing that the Prosecutor asked for a publication ban just before the morning break on Friday. Is this true? I also heard the judge and defence lawyers rejected this attempt by the Prosecution to muzzle what media people like you could report. I am very troubled that the prosecutor would want to have a publication ban. Something smells....

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill
We are fortunate you are taking your time to sit in court and report what's going on for us who can't make it to the court house.

When folks actualy get sworn in, the daily results might get very interesting. Thanks again dl

Bill Tieleman said...

Hi John - I am unaware of any publication ban request but was away from the court for part of the day's hearing. No one in the media covering the case mentioned it on my return nor in their reporting, so I cannot give you an informed answer but will check.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett has several times made clear she wants maximum openness and transparency and so I doubt she would entertain such a motion without good arguments in favour.

I will attempt to find out and report back here.

Gazetteer said...

Mr T.

Riddle us this.....

How different would things be, particularly in terms of keeping things hidden away under the Government's cone of silence, if at least one of the alleged bribe makers was also going to trial?

.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for some of the folks involved to get sworn in.It could get very interesting as some folks try to cover their bottoms. It's great to see some coverage

Bill W said...

Anonymous, I wouldn't get too worked up about hearing "sworn" testimony from these clowns. Remember, they told us that BC Rail was not for sale, and what happened after the 2001 election?
If you have any remaining faith in "sworn" testimony please tune into the recent "sworn" testimony from the senior ranks of the rcmp in front of the House of Commons committee looking at the rcmp scandal that seems to grow every day. Here we have mounties, all "sworn" and under oath, all telling completely different stories on the same issue.
My faith is "sworn" testimony was lost a long time ago. If you want to know what these people were thinking and doing then you need to read their emails and listen to the phone calls. If you have paid attention to the Gonzales controversy in the US and the Abrafmoff affair its the emails that have been extremely damaging and revealing. Read the Gary Mason story again about the email between, according to court documents, "self-confessed bribers of public officials" as they discuss their close personal relationship with Paul Taylor. If that doesn't make you shake your head I don't know what will!

Anonymous said...

Gary,

Bornmann graduated from law school (UBC, if I'm not mistaken) and articled with a law firm (McCarthy Tetrault), but was never called to the Bar and is therefore NOT a lawyer, cannot give legal advice or practice law. I'm a lawyer myself, so this distinction is important.

His website at bornmanngallery.com says he provides "pro bono legal service to the public" [sic], but if he ever provided legal advice or held himself out to be a lawyer - even for no fee -, he could be charged. These statements on his website, which I personally think are disingenuous, will be relevant evidence to bear in any attempt by Bornmann to be Called and my understanding is they have already been brought to the attention of the Law Society of Upper Canada: I'm surprised to see them still on his site.

If I had to bet, I would not bet on Bornmann ever getting called to any Canadian Bar. An ethical lapse as serious as bribing a public official will not be overlooked.

Jack said...

Anonymous, as a lawyer can you please explain the actions of the Special Prosecutor, Bill Berardino, a senior member of the bar and somebody who represents the bc bar in disciplinary hearings. Maybe I have limited intelligence but somebody please tell me how a senior member of the bar in bc and supposedly a widely respected lawyer would turn a blind eye to, according to court documents a "self confessed briber of public officials" trying to become a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, one of the most presitgious and oldest law societies in Canada? If this doesn't make a mockery of the process what does? Smacks of sheer desperation to me!

BW said...

Bill, this is what Mary wrote on her site. Isn't this worthy of a story by itself? I mean here we have the special prosecutor asking for a publication ban while the defence lawyers are arguing for public access. Somebody, anybody please tell me what the hell is going on!! Isn't it suppose to be the other way around!!

A confidential source within the Times Colonist confirms that the prosecution did petition the judge for a publication ban on Friday April 27.

Crown Counsel WInteringham asked Madame Justice Bennett for a publication ban on further evidence in the BC Rail trial but then withdrew it, BC Mary was told.

Times Colonist says that they remain committed to opposing such attempts in future, that they "think it is crucial that British Columbians are aware of what is going on in this trial."


# posted by BC Mary