Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Premier's staff alleged directed paid media manipulation, Basi-Virk trial hearing told

Defence takes aim at Liberals
Basi-Virk trial


April 24, 2007

The defence team in the Basi-Virk trial, left to right: Kristy Sim, Claire Hatcher, Michael Bolton Q.C., Kevin McCullough and Joe Doyle outside B.C. Supreme Court yesterday. (Rob Kruyt, 24 hours)

The case of two former provincial government aides charged with breach of trust heard defence allegations yesterday of heavy involvement in manipulating radio talk shows that originated right from the office of Premier Gordon Campbell.

And the defence alleged Campbell himself was aware that the B.C. Liberal Party was paying individuals to stack shows with positive phone calls, citing specific e-mails coming from the premier's press secretary Mike Morton that form part of the Crown evidence.

Morton declined to comment when contacted by 24 hours in Victoria, while B.C. Liberal House Leader Mike de Jong refused to discuss the case, saying: "I'm not going to talk about what's going on in court today."

Kevin McCullough, defence lawyer for former ministerial aide Bob Virk, read from what he said was a March 11, 2002 e-mail from Morton to Dave Basi, the former ministerial aide who is also charged.

"Thanks Dave - I'll let the premier know your team is in place. The premier will be on [CKNW radio host] John McComb's show - there will be a call-in," McCullough read in court.

McCullough also quoted the Nov. 23, 2003 transcript from one of many RCMP wiretapped telephone calls between Basi and then-B.C. Liberal Caucus Communications Director Mike McDonald regarding another show where paid callers were to pose hostile questions to New Democratic Party leader Carole James.

"It's a call in response to Carole James - she's going to be on the Bill Good Show tomorrow - Mike asks him to 'get the posse together'," McCullough alleged.

McCullough also alleged that key Crown witnesses Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran, both provincial lobbyists in the $1 billion B.C. Rail privatization deal, were allowed by the RCMP and Special Prosecutor to continue their lucrative lobbying business even after they alleged disclosed bribing Basi and Virk.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett also heard allegations that Basi worked with McDonald to set up a phony paid heckler at a Safeway store in Victoria to criticize an environmental protest against government support of salmon farming in front of a television crew.

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