Friday, October 26, 2007

Basi-Virk case - 25,000 new pages of evidence; Justice Bennett blows up; defence blames Special Prosecutor for delays

This story is also now online at The Tyee.

A massive 25,000 page disclosure of new evidence in the breach of trust trial of two former provincial government ministerial aides could impact current BC cabinet ministers, BC Supreme Court was told Friday morning.

And tempers flared as defence lawyers, the Special Prosecutor and even Justice Elizabeth Bennett all expressed frustration at lengthy delays that have stalled the pending trial, which began with a police raid on the BC Legislature on December 28, 2003.

Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Bob Virk, the former ministerial assistant to then-Transportation Minister Judith Reid, told Bennett that current members of Premier Gordon Campbell's government may be affected when the new evidence is examined.

"There are certain documents that may have an impact on certain cabinet ministers and we may have to pursue those documents," McCullough said.

Earlier defence lawyer Michael Bolton, representing David Basi, former aide to then-Finance Minister Gary Collins, told the court that 13,000 pages of new evidence all connected to the BC Rail deal had been received by the defence this week. Another more than 11,000 pages related to a drug investigation that was linked to the case was also disclosed.

The massive disclosure of new material - ordered by Bennett in June in response to a defence request - has made it impossible for the defence to prepare planned court applications, an exasperated McCullough said.

"To give it all to us on the 22nd and 24th gives absolutely no time to review the file," McCullough said.

Bennett was also exasperated with the delays in the complicated case that began as an RCMP drug trafficking investigation but later branched off into a breach of trust action after wiretaps led police to look into the $1 billion privatization sale of BC Rail to CN Rail.

When counsel for the defence suggested it might need more time to prepare its applications in light of the new evidence, Bennett warned that she would not consider moving the planned December 3 date scheduled in court.

"As long as everyone understands we're not moving the December 3 date - if I have to sit here in an empty courtroom myself, the matters are going to be heard" she exclaimed.

"I don't think any of us expected this volume of documents to show up. I didn't," she added.

But McCullough intervened, placing the blame entirely on Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino and his team.

"There are no problems at the feet of the defence. 100% of the problem is at the feet of the Special Prosecutor," he charged, which prompted Berardino to fire back.

"If people are going to make a speech - I want to reply to that. You asked for every scrap of paper," Berardino started, referring to Bennett's own instructions previously in court.

But an angry Bennett refused to hear more.

"At some point your friends are going to bring in an abuse of process motion and I don't need to hear arguments from anyone today," Bennett said curtly. "I appreciate no one knew how many documents there were and I know everyone is working hard."

McCullough refused to drop the issue, however.

"We're quite prepared to set out for you that not one day of delay, not a single day, is due to the defence," he argued.

"I don't need to hear it," Bennett replied but McCullough persisted.

"The Special Prosecutor says they have complied with your order - I would like to review that," he said. "We have found hard copy call logs summaries that we cannot find electronically. The Special Prosecutor cannot find them either and they can't explain it."

"It would be negligent of me to not raise the problems," he concluded.

Outside the court Bolton repeated earlier statements that the defence will file an abuse of process motion which could potentially see the case dismissed without a trial, based on arguments against police conduct and problems with disclosure of evidence by the prosecution.

Bennett again warned both sides that delays are not acceptable.

"We need to accomplish something with this case so we can proceed in mid-March," Bennett said, referring to an anticipated trial date.

The pre-trial hearing marked the first appearance of legal counsel for BC Rail, with Robert Deane of Borden Ladner Gervais representing the crown corporation.

Justice Bennett set two further pre-trial hearing conferences for the case, one on Friday November 16 at 9 a.m. to determine which matters can go ahead and what applications will be filed for the December 3 date and a second conference on Friday November 23 at 8 a.m.



15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Too many "beautiful" BC political-people . . . on both sides of this case don't want this trial to happen.
So ultimately the legal "technicality" fix is in.
If the Basigate trial ever or finally happens(post-2010 at this rate)the outcome will be as nebulus as the Air India Trial.

Wayne L said...

Bill your work in this case has been nothing short of brilliant. Many of us can never get the straight goods from the Sun. Your reporting is superb. When this thing finally wraps up you should be nominated for an award.

When compared to some of the outrageous comments from another unmentioned site your posts on your blog have shown a professionalism and attention to detail that is sadly lacking among our reporters in the present environment.

Thank you again for reporting the facts, the whole facts and nothing but the facts contrary to what the government and the rcmp would like us to believe!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your report Bill. Keeping a judge unhappy doesn't go over very well. No doubt people with more legal smarts than I may or may not be of the same opinon.
I sort of figure the judge isn't about to take stalling much longer. But the mass of papers dropped to the defence so close to court appearance looks to me to be the intent of slowing things down. But what do i know I wasn't there. DL

Anonymous said...

Would it be fair to say that the special prosecutor and the defence have been sitting on the same fence?

Anonymous said...

Bill - Any sign of Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino? If so: Did you have a chance to ask why he hasn't been to keen to attend court in the previous hearings?

I was looking online at the Vancouver Sun this morning and I can't find anything on this case: were any CanWest reporters there? Google News shows only a weak article from Jeff Rud at the Times Colonist.

Paul Gill said...

After reading the submissions by the Special Prosecutor in the spring, they clearly stated that full disclosure has been made. The SP even submitted sworn affidavits by police officers stating that they have handed in all notes etc..

Now we have 25,000 more pages of material? Many more police notes? It seems as though the affidavits are not worth the paper they are written on.

What is going on with this case? Why is it so difficult to produce everything to get this case started?

It is also apparent that Mr. Berardino is feeling the heat when he attempts to try and attack the Judge's ruling to disclose every piece of paper.

Anonymous said...

we need all hands on deck it terms of receiving all the information necessary.

Put up or withdraw.. Let us hear the arguments.

PG.....

Wayne said...

Bill, on BC Mary's blog you made the following statement that I wholeheartedly agree with.
"The Special Prosecutor provision has worked well to ensure that no political party - NDP or BC Liberal - can influence a prosecution." With that being said can you please explain to me how the Solicitor General of the day, Rich Coleman, could tell the rcmp and the special prosecutor not to fly to Hawaii and interview Collins? From everything I have seen including the judges decision this nonsense that no elected official was under investigation is just that, complete absolute nonsense. In her decision the judge clearly states collins was under police suspicion and in fact notes etc. must exist that further document this suspicion. Isn't the whole purpose of having a SP to prevent this type of political influence in an investigation? We know for certain the rcmp planned to fly an interrogation team to hawaii to interview collins. Since when does a criminal investigation with a special prosecutor take direction from a sitting politician like the former SG Coleman? The other thing that has been very troubling is the "not for disclosure" note that references kelly reichart and campbell that was mysteriously found during the last disclosure hearing in April/May 2007. Why would the rcmp and SP brief the premier on an investigation that involves his government, his political party and his cabinet ministers? These are very troubling questions. My understanding is the whole reason to have a special prosecutor is to avoid political interference in sensitive investigations that involve politicians. It seems to me this investigation reeks of political interference.

I would be very interested in your opinion on this matter. Can you imagine if the ndp had tried to pull this type of move when it was in power in the 1990's? The bc liberals would have been screaming at the top of their lungs demanding answers and calling for heads to roll.

Bill Tieleman said...

In response to Wayne - I'm not aware of any testimony or information that the Special Prosecutor ever was involved in the decision to not fly to Hawaii to interview Gary Collins there - please advise as to your source on that.

I also don't believe Rich Coleman could tell the RCMP how to conduct their investigation - again, please advise.

The Special Prosecutor did not advise the Premier on anything regarding this case to the best of my knowledge.

I believe you are referring to defence allegations that Kelly Reichert, Liberal Party Executive Director, was briefed by the RCMP on possible additional charges against Dave Basi that involved the party, and subsequently that Reichert briefed Campbell.

I caution all posters to this website that care must be taken in this complex case to be very accurate. I appreciate your questions Wayne but I also want to point out that I am unaware of any of the sources for points you claim have been already made.

Anonymous said...

I figure Bill's last comments of 2:33 today is worth reading and thinking about carefully. It's too easy to start forming consiracy theories. The Judge has shown her displeasure of the slow movements by some. She has stated the next dates are fixed. So we wait.

We would be far ahead by simply reading what is printed and passing such articles along to folks such as Bill. Our opinions really don't count all that much if not backed up by other than hearsay should remain in our pile of thoughts. You can be pretty sure that others do read these blogs, hell maybe some of them write in these blogs. Solid information sure beats things that we all may be hoping might occur. A couple of investigations on Lobying going on right now are partly the result of articles posted on blogs. But it has to be real information. Wishful thinking is not going to put any politician, or other folks we may or may not like, in jail. If you see something in some small newspaper or web site of some news paper , it becomes worth while to pass it along. One's credibility is pretty limited if its all based on guesses. These are real people who may or may not be guilty of anyhting End of sermon. D.L

Budd Campbell said...

If you add Basi-Virk to the Province stories concerning MP Blair Wilson one could be forgiven for thinking that it's trouble ahead for the Liberals both federally and provincially.

Yet their provincial support in opinion polls is high, and the last time I saw a federal poll they are still more or less in a strong second place position in BC alongside Jack Layton's NDP. There's a remarkable resilience to the Liberal vote in this province that would not have been seen a decade or two ago.

PG said...

Bill,

Here is the research that you requested about Rich Coleman. Unfortunately, when this case has taken years to go anywhere, the facts become forgotten.

SOLICITOR GENERAL 'INTERVENED' IN B.C. RAIL PROBE: LAWYER
MARK HUME
Globe and Mail Update - May 3, 2007

VANCOUVER — The solicitor general of British Columbia “intervened” in a politically explosive RCMP investigation by heading off police before they could interview one of the most powerful members of cabinet, the Supreme Court of British Columbia was told yesterday.

Defence lawyer Michael Bolton said an RCMP investigative team was set to fly to Hawaii to track down Gary Collins, then finance minister, the day after police raided the B.C. legislature on Dec. 28, 2003.

The police wanted to tackle Mr. Collins with questions about his trusted ministerial aide, Dave Basi, as soon as possible after the sensational raid, which generated massive news coverage in B.C. {Snip}

But Mr. Bolton said police decided not to go, even though they had cleared their Hawaii visit with the FBI attaché in Vancouver, after solicitor general Rich Coleman's office contacted senior officers.

“The government is concerned that Collins and Reid could inadvertently expose cabinet confidences,” said an RCMP briefing note on the solicitor general's concerns, which Mr. Bolton read in court.

“The solicitor general intervened,” said Mr. Bolton. “The solicitor general has become very involved in the investigation . . . [He's] making investigative decisions such as when to interview Mr. Collins.”

Mr. Bolton said police didn't take a statement from Mr. Collins until some two months later.

Mr. Coleman, who is now Forests Minister, rejected the allegation. {Snip}

But in court, Mr. Bolton read parts of a statement Mr. Collins gave police in which he said one of the first people he called when he heard about the legislature search was Mr. Coleman.

“I am politically astute enough to know that this is a really, really, really bad thing,” Mr. Collins said of the search. “So I managed to track down the solicitor general. . .[who said] it had something to do with organized crime.” {Snip}

The trial, which is giving glimpses into the backroom operations of the Liberals in B.C., has produced numerous allegations of political dirty tricks being directed by Dave Basi with the approval of Mr. Collins and top officials in Premier Gordon Campbell's office. {Snip}


Read Mark Hume's complete story at:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070503.wbasi0504/BNStory/National/home

PG said...

Here are some more clips:

BASI/VIRK CASE STILL STIRRING THE LEGISLATURE
CKNW - May, 07 2007 - 11:40 PM

VICTORIA/CKNW(AM980) - The Campbell Government continues to refuse to answer any questions stemming from the Court proceedings involving former Government aides David Basi and Bobby Virk, but the NDP says one Cabinet Minister has now broken ranks.

For weeks now, Attorney-General Wally Oppal has refused to answer any questions even remotely connected to the Court case, "It would be irresponsible of me to comment on anything that arises out of the trial."

But New Democrat Shane Simpson says that doesn't wash anymore because Forests Minister Rich Coleman commented on the case in the media last week, "The double standard of the Attorney-General in this case is incredible."

Now, Coleman says he was only defending his record, "I never once interfered in a police investigation when I was the solicitor-general."

Coleman denies that amounts to commenting on the case.


-----
THE LEGISLATURE RAID
JUDGE TO ORDER CROWN TO REVEAL DOCUMENTS
The Globe and Mail - May 11, 207
MARK HUME

VANCOUVER -- While arguments continue in a political corruption trial about how many documents the Crown must disclose, the defence won concessions yesterday that will see more material released within days.

"We're going to be getting a lot more," defence lawyer Kevin McCullough said as he left the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Mr. McCullough and other members of the team defending Dave Basi, Bobby Virk and Aneal Basi on charges of fraud, breach of trust and money laundering, have been pressing Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett to order the Crown to produce more material. {Snip}

But in closing her response to the defence application, Ms. Winteringham told the court that the Crown will soon be providing more documents and will be seeking other material for the defence that the prosecution does not yet have.

Among the material she promised to acquire for the defence are the financial records of Erik Bornmann, a former Victoria lobbyist who is expected to be a key Crown witness.

She also said the Crown will seek any material related to the role played by former solicitor-general Rich Coleman.

The defence has alleged that Mr. Coleman, who is now Forests and Range Minister for B.C., intervened [to] persuade RCMP investigators not to interview then-finance-minister Gary Collins after a December 2003 raid of the legislature. {Snip}

The defence has argued there must be government documents that would clarify the situation. Ms. Winteringham said the Crown will ask both the solicitor-general's office and the Speaker's office for any material they have that is related to the case.

She said if the government refuses to produce documents, on the basis of parliamentary privilege, "then we will cross that bridge when we come to it."

The Crown also promised to release a document containing confidential financial details on the privatization deal, in which BC Rail was sold to CN Rail for $1-billion, and to give the defence 22 police reports on briefings by secret informants. {Snip}

Court will not resume sitting until next Tuesday in order to allow the Crown time to gather and deliver the material to the defence.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20070511.BCBASI11/TPStory/?query=mark+hume

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks to several posters for bringing me up to date and refreshing my memory on the very complex Basi-Virk case.

I want to particularly refer to Wayne and PG's comments regarding allegations that Solicitor General Rich Coleman intervened in the RCMP investigation by telling them not to interview Gary Collins while on vacation in Hawaii.

This part of Mark Hume's May 4, 2007 Globe and Mail story was omitted when posted here:

"Mr. Coleman, who is now forests minister, rejected the allegation. 'I'm not going to comment on what's before the courts, but I can tell you at no time during my time as the solicitor-general of this province did I influence any police investigation,' Mr. Coleman told CTV in Victoria."

Until the trial starts and witnesses are called I don't know what else can be done - Coleman says he did not intervene, the defence, apparently quoting RCMP notes, alleges he did.

I appreciate the interest in this aspect of the case - and I note now that I did not include it in my reporting for that day - but it currently is in the category of "he says/she says" and cannot be clarified short of testimony.

But it is potentially a very important part of this case and the defence's central arguments.

Anonymous said...

Much of this case is he says or she says.

4 years later and still we wait.

The people of BC should demand an explanation from the Special Prosecutor.