Sudden Basi-Virk trial ending will be costly for taxpayers as Gordon Campbell says Basi & Virk always criminally guilty
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
Premier Gordon Campbell broke a seven year silence Tuesday on the B.C. Legislature raid case, calling two former B.C. Liberal ministerial aides who made surprise guilty pleas Monday “criminals” who acted on their own simply for personal benefit.
Campbell said that despite years of defence lawyer allegations that David Basi and Bob Virk were merely following the orders of political superiors to ensure one of the companies considering buying B.C. Rail stayed in the bidding, the claims were “groundless”.
“Two people acted on their own and acted criminally. And I think unfortunately for seven years they’ve claimed innocence, and their lawyers have pretended that they were innocent when they knew they were guilty,” Campbell told reporters.
Basi and Virk struck a plea bargain deal with Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino that saw several charges dropped in exchange for a two year house arrest sentence and a $75,695 fine for Basi.
But the most controversial part of the deal is that despite pleading guilty, Basi and Virk’s $6 million legal fees will be paid by the government.
Berardino said in an interview with 24 hours Monday that not pursuing reimbursement of the fees was “my decision” and there no political interference in it.
***UPDATE - Oct 21 - After reviewing notes of my interview with Berardino I should clarify that he was referring to the plea bargain deal overall, not the reimbursement of Basi and Virk's legal fees. At the time it appeared there was only one agreement but it is now clear the decision not to pursue reimbursement of fees paid by the provincial government was made by BC officials, not Berardino. ***
Campbell declined comment on the fee issue but said that: “Legal services felt this would be an extra cost to taxpayers that would yield no benefit to the taxpayers.”
Berardino declined to say if plea bargain discussions with defence had taken place at previous points in the six year case.
“I don’t think I should comment on that. It’s privileged,” he said.
Campbell also rejected New Democratic Party calls for a public inquiry into the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail in 2003, saying it would cost millions of dollars and justice has run its course.