|Bill Tieleman outside BC Supreme Court - Lyle Stafford photo|
BC Legislature Raid case police documents released Thursday suggest that the owner of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team paid $75,000 for a Harmony Airways flight taking federal Young Liberal Party members to the party leadership convention in 2003 that made Paul Martin prime minister.
In a wiretapped cell phone conversation November 7, 2003, fraud-convicted ex-BC government aides David Basi and Bob Virk excitedly and obscenely discuss how Francesco Aquilini had come up with the money to pay for the flight to the November 12-15, 2003.
The wiretaps are part of thousands of pages of police evidence against Basi and Virk but have never been made public before, nor has the information they contain been entered into court and subject to examination by Crown and defence.
At the time Vancouver real estate developer Aquilini, head of the Aquilini Investment Group, was negotiating to buy the Canucks from Seattle billionaire John McCaw with the assistance of senior lawyer Lyall Knott.
Police wiretap transcripts also indicate that someone named “Lyle” worked with Basi on the Aquilini flight funding.
Harmony Airways was closed in March 2007 and owner David Ho was charged in September 2009 with unlawful confinement, possession of illegal drugs and a loaded 9mm Glock pistol. Ho owns luxury car dealership MCL Motor Cars and the University Golf Club.
Basi’s former boss, ex-BC Liberal Finance Minister Gary Collins, left government in 2004 to become Harmony’s CEO but quit in December 2006 before the firm crashed.
I first broke the story of the chartered flight to Toronto in my then-Georgia Straight newspaper column published January 8, 2004 – but there was no indication then that Aquilini or Knott were in any way involved at that time.
At that time I interviewed then-federal Liberal Party BC President Bill Cunningham about the flight. Here’s an excerpt from my column then:
“In another development, Bill Cunningham, president of the Liberal party of Canada in B.C., confirmed reports to the Straight that an HMY Airways jet was chartered at a cost of about $90,000 to fly predominantly Young Liberal delegates to the November 12-15, 2003, leadership convention in Toronto.”
“Cunningham said in a telephone interview that the Young Liberals did their own fundraising for the flight, with between 200 and 215 people on board the aircraft. He said the effective price for the flight was $419. That would put the cost at between $83,800 and $90,085. In addition, delegates had to pay for hotel accommodations, food, and convention fees that ranged from $785 to $1,100 each.”
“Cunningham said that despite rumours he has heard connected to the police investigation, he has no concerns about fundraising by the Young Liberals and said the Liberal party would disclose all details as required by law.”
"I don't want to say there's no way we could be used for wrongdoing, but I can't see it," Cunningham said.”
The intercepted telephone conversation between Basi and Virk is part of a set of documents ordered released only to media accredited to the BC Supreme Court by Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie in response to an application filed by the Globe and Mail newspaper and CTV BC News. I was able to access the documents today at the offices of Special Prosecutor team lawyers Janet Winteringham and Andi MacKay.
Basi and Virk entered surprise guilty pleas and received a sentence of two years house arrest – and sparked an ongoing controversy when it was revealed that the BC Liberal government paid their $6 million legal defence fees despite their acknowledgement of serious wrongdoing.
I continue to believe that only an independent public inquiry can get to the bottom of the many, many questions left unanswered by this case.
The full wiretapped transcript is as follows. Note that police wiretaps often use phonetic spelling, which is uncorrected here.
DAVID BASI: Hello?
BOB VIRK: Hey, it’s Bob.
VIRK: What’s up?
BASI: Fuck, Franchesco FRANCOLINI (sic) came through for the flight for the young Liberals for seventy-five thousand bucks.
VIRK: All covered?
BASI: I, I worked with Lyle (sic) on that. That’s why I was, I gotta confirm now, right? That’s why I was, that’s one of the reasons I was really pissed. There’s no credit given to us. Do you know how much we’ve nurtured that relationship with Lyle and Francesco?
BASI: That fucking guy calls this office and I fucking jump twenty stories.
BASI: He’s also negotiating today to buy the Canucks.
VIRK: He’s what?
BASI: Negotiating to buy the Canucks.
VIRK: Yeah, I know. He told me.
BASI: Today they’re, they’re, they’re actually in a meeting right now.
VIRK: Buddy, I, I, dont’ have to tell you that’d be the dream job, okay?
BASI: Vice President, Government Relations.
VIRK: I’ll be, I’ll be your bitch, whatever I have to do, man.
BASI: Come here, boy!
VIRK: I’ll be , I’ll be, I’ll be Adam and I’ll bring your danish.
BASI: Danish, fuck (indecipherable). Well, I’ll call you back, okay?