Monday, June 02, 2008

Basi-Virk: 2,200 more privileged documents, more delays

The long and winding road that is the BC Legislature Raid case turned another corner this morning, a corner that sees 2,200 more documents where privilege is being claimed and more delays coming before getting to the actual trial.

Defence lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi - the three former provincial government aides facing corruptions charges related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail - joined with Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino in asking BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett to accept further delays in dealing with the 4-year old case.

There will also be a Charter of Rights application coming from the defence this month on the issue of calling witnesses such as BC Premier Gordon Campbell and Deputy Attorney-General Allan Seckel to testify about their roles in the disclosure of evidence in the case. The defence has previously alleged political interference in the case by the premier.

And New Democratic Party MLA Leonard Krog again raised the possibility that the trial will never be heard in court, calling on Campbell to promise a full public inquiry if the case is dismissed by Bennett.

Virk's lawyer Kevin McCullough told Bennett that the Special Prosecutor is claiming privilege over about 2,200 documents - a claim that may take several weeks to sort through in court.

Outside court Basi's lawyer Mike Bolton explained that the privilege claim is not to be confused with the privilege claims of the BC government based on either cabinet privilege or solicitor-client privilege that have earlier been bones of contention.

"There's a variety of different claims," in the 2,200 documents Bolton said. "Pertaining to other investigations, solicitor-client privilege, relevancy claims and police work project privilege."

"It's completely separate from the cabinet solicitor-client privilege, different documents," he added.

That's one reason why Bennett agreed to the joint defence-crown request to put back the starting date for pre-trial hearings on the vetting of evidence related to the case, from the originally planned date of June 16 to June 30.

But the two sides did not agree on how long the vetting of BC Rail documents will take.

Bennett asked Berardino how long he anticipated it would require.

"As a general rule, subject to anyone here saying something, two to three weeks," Berardino replied.

"Very optimistic," McCullough immediately interjected.

He later suggested far longer. "I don't think it will take two to three weeks - the volume is substantial and I think it will take considerably longer," McCullough said.

McCullough also asked Bennett to schedule another case update hearing in mid-June.

"What I had hoped to accomplish," Bennett replied, "was to have the vetting completed by the end of the summer."

But even that may be a challenge, as a lengthy discussion of all parties' holiday plans proved.

After some vacation negotiations, it was determined that the court will sit June 30 for three days before Bennett takes off the week of July 7 to teach a judicial course. The hearings will then resume July 14 and run until August 15, when the court will not sit for three weeks as counsel take holidays, until September 8.

Bennett also agreed to McCullough's request for an update, which will take place on Friday June 20 at 9 a.m.

Outside the courtroom MLA Leonard Krog, critic for the Attorney-General's ministry, appeared somewhat exasperated at the extended proceedings and possibility of the case being dismissed.

"This government is still under the cloud of the raid on the BC Legislature after four years," he said. "If the case is thrown out, if the premier has any integrity he will call an immediate inquiry into this long, sorry tale."

Meanwhile, the action next shifts to the BC Court of Appeal on June 9, where an appeal by Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino will be heard.

Berardino hopes to convince the Appeal Court to overturn a ruling by Justice Bennett that would allow defence lawyers to hear testimony by a secret witness in the case.

That appeal is set for three days in court and is expected to take place completely in camera - in other words, no access allowed for the media or the public.

All in all, another great day in a case that shows little signs of ending anytime soon.


Anonymous said...

Bill, I hope that people can attend Berardino's appeal next week.

It is a shame that this case continues to be delayed by the Special Prosecutor.

Don't hold your breath for the summer dates. The appeal may change things.

DP said...

Glad to see you were there to give an unbiased report on the events as they unfold.

Anonymous said...

Just how much are these lawyers being paid for all this nonsense? Is this, by any chance, another example of corruption in this province? Or, am I expanding on the ideas in MacLean's article, BC is a Crime Super Power, too much and letting my imagination run wild?

Bill, could you speak to those union guys? I am still waiting for my SHUT UP T-shirt?

Gary E said...

Many of us feel Leonard Krogs' exasperation Bill. His may be a little more political, there being an election on the horizon with a gag law inserted. His comment on "if the Premier has any integrity", if it wasn't so serious, almost made me laugh. I'm afraid that in my opinion this premier lost all his integrity when he first said he wouldn't sell our railway. The many lies that have followed have only bolstered my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Only the post-typhoon "wingnuts" in Burma military junta are trying harder to stonewall a crisis more than the Federal and Provincial Grits are on Basigate.

By the time this finally comes to an end . . . Gordo and his "special friend" will be retired to Maui, and Wally will be federal Grit senator sharing an expense account with Senator Marissen.


Anonymous said...

I hope that the defence application for government documents that are being witheld by Campbell will be released to the public.

Those applications certainly outline detailed arguements regarding the importance of the documents.

kootcoot said...

"All in all, another great day in a case that shows little signs of ending anytime soon.

Bill, it is difficult for me to imagine how the word "great" can be applied to this ongoing travesty of a train wreck of so called justice. There is no justice here for the Basis and Virk, there is no justice for the people of BC. It has been over four years of highly (over?) paid lawyers and officials obfuscating and avoiding any effort to uncover the truth if it may be embarrassing or lead to criminal charges against the REAL culprits in this farce.

Well, maybe I just mis-spoke (or mis-wrote) indeed the whole thing is (like many other Liar Party shenanigans) a GREAT stain on the whole concept of "justice" and "due process!"

You want sleaze? These guys got it, from your nickel and dime frauds to your billion dollar scams and everything in between.

BC Mary said...

To Anonymous 3:34,

Bill may need to correct me, but it's my understanding of Bill Berardino's appearance before the B.C. Court of Appeal is that it will be closed tight, not even the media or defence lawyers allowed in.

Sounds outrageous to me, so I hope I'm wrong. But Berardino's point in making the appeal is to ensure just that: nobody gets to see or hear certain aspects of the BC Rail case.


Bill Tieleman said...

Mary - you are quite correct - I will be amazed if myself or any other ink-stained wretch or misbegotten taxpayer ever gets the chance to cross the threshold into the courtroom of the BC Court of Appeal for the secret witness hearing.

But I will be there anyway if only to witness more history being made - from the outside!

kootcoot said...

"But I will be there anyway if only to witness more history being made - from the outside!"

And you might get to see some vermin afterwards, scurrying as they try to get out of the light, especially if it is a sunny day.

Anonymous said...

Hold on. Unless the Appeal Court rules that the hearing is to be in camera, it is not in camera. Isn't that the whole point of a higher court? Not to accept the lower court's ruling without a review?

While I accept that it may be a mere formality to have the hearing in camera based on the wishes of Special Prosecutor Berardino on June 9, but until the court rules, the public should be allowed in.

Maybe another media application will be presented and the appeal court panel will accept the view that the public should be allowed in.

Hey you never know. Maybe Berardino will drop his appeal and get on with this case.