Surprise guilty plea in Basi-Virk political corruption trial of ex-BC Liberal aides brings call for public inquiry
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
The surprise guilty plea Monday of two former B.C. Liberal government ministerial aides to political corruption charges related to the $1 billion B.C. Rail sale suddenly ends a seven-year case that began with a 2003 police raid of the Legislature.
That has the New Democrat opposition calling for a full public inquiry and asking if the plea bargain deal struck by David Basi and Bob Virk to serve two years less a day under house arrest includes their legal fees being paid for by government.
UPDATE 5 p.m. - BC Attorney General Mike de Jong confirmed late today that the government has been paying Basi and Virk's legal fees, will not be attempting to recover them and will not hold a public inquiry into the scandal.
“Are the taxpayers on the hook for Basi and Virk’s legal bills? If so that’s outrageous,” NDP MLA Leonard Krog said in an interview. “If you’re found guilty as a government employee why should the taxpayers pay for your defence.”
Krog says ending the trial without testimony from several former cabinet ministers and government insiders is a “complete shock” that makes an inquiry essential.
Basi, Virk and Aneal Basi – whose money laundering charges were stayed as part of the agreement between Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino and defence lawyers – all referred questions about their legal fees to the B.C. Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General’s office has not yet responded to interview requests.
David Basi also pled guilty to a separate charge for being paid $50,000 by developers to help remove property near Victoria from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
He was fined a total of $75,695 on all charges – repaying the $50,000 amount and another $25,695 he allegedly received for passing confidential government information on the sale of B.C. Rail to a lobbyist for one of the bidders.
B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie accepted the guilty plea deal, noting that although their crimes were “serious breaches of trust by public officials” Basi and Virk both have no previous criminal record and each has a young family.