BC Rail corruption case to start May 3, end by June 30, BC Supreme Court justice decides
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
The trial of three former provincial government aides facing corruption charges connected to the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail in 2003 will begin May 3 and end by June 30, a B.C. Supreme Court justice decided Wednesday.
Justice Anne MacKenzie also agreed to a request by defence lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi to have the case heard by judge and jury, with jury selection on April 28.
David Basi’s lawyer Michael Bolton said outside court that his clients want the change from trial by judge only because: “The high degree of public interest in this case requires a trial by jury.”
New Democrat MLA Leonard Krog says the trial is “long overdue” coming over six years after police raided the B.C. Legislature to obtain evidence.
“British Columbians want to know what happened in the sale of B.C. Rail,” Krog said.
David Basi and Bob Virk appeared in court for the first time in years of pre-trial hearings, while Aneal Basi participated by video link from Montreal, where he works.
The three former BC Liberal government aides all verbally consented in court to the withdrawal of five different pre-trial applications and issues, the result of an agreement between their lawyers and Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino.
But despite the agreement, defence and Crown sparred in court.
Berardino told MacKenzie the Crown felt that the defence applications were "unproven and without merit" in presenting the agreement.
That brought a rebuttal from Kevin McCullough, representing Virk.
"We'r not pursuing any further applications - there's a difference betwen the Crown's position and the defence - we don't agree that these applications are not meritorious," McCullough said, adding that some defence applications have been adjudicated in court and found to have considerable merit.
In fact, several defence applications for disclosure of evidence brought forward under previous case Justice Elizabeth Bennett were significant wins for the defence that produced tens of thousands of page of new documents.
In addition to jury selection on April 28, MacKenzie agreed all should return to court on Monday March 29 at 10 a.m. to set - if necessary - any pre-trial hearings brought by third parties regarding possible disclosure of evidence in open court.
McCullough suggested it was a good idea, as the defence has received over 5,000 emails in January and another 2,000 in the past week.
Berardino made clear that the email disclosure will not affect the time frame for the trial.
Outside court Bolton gave another reason for going to trial by jury.
"It's often said that innocent people preferred to be tried by a jury," Bolton said, looking at some handwritten notes as he spoke to reporters. "We feel this case is appropriate to be tried by a jury."
"There are no technical defences - these men are innocent," Bolton said.
Bolton also said the defence still has emails to come from BC Liberal MLAs and that the disclosure McCullough referred to was from the Executive Branch of the provincial government.
A version of this story will be published in 24 hours newspaper Thursday February 10.