Friday, December 28, 2007

BC Legislature Raid was 4 years ago today - and still no trial

It is exceedingly hard to believe that the dramatic televised news of a police raid on the British Columbia Legislature was four years ago today - December 28, 2003 - and yet the trial of former BC Liberal government ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk and communications staffer Aneal Basi has still not taken place in BC Supreme Court.

I well remember that day. On vacation in Seattle, my cell phone suddenly started to ring constantly. When I finally answered I discovered the Legislature had been raided and that the offices of Dave Basi and Bob Virk were the targets.

The reason my cell phone was inundated with calls was because I had profiled Basi in my October 2, 2003 column in the Georgia Straight newspaper for a piece on all the connections between the federal Paul Martin Liberals and the Gordon Campbell provincial Liberals.

Every reporter who Googled Dave Basi got that column in their search.

Interestingly, as you read this piece over four years later, the number of players mentioned who were subsequently implicated in some way in this case is amazing, including key Crown witnesses Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran.

So, as an ironic look back in time to just weeks before the raid, here is that column. Most of those with connections to the case are named in the second half of the column.

[Canadian Press reporter Camille Bains, one of the regulars at BC Supreme Court room 54, has done a good wrap-up look at the BC Legislature Raid case. Regrettably, neither the Vancouver Sun nor Province has noted this remarkable anniversary in their editions today, nor printed Camille's piece.]

The Basi-Virk trial is scheduled to begin in March 2008 and the pre-trial hearings will resume January 7, 2008. As always, stay tuned for more on this blog in the new year.

* * * * *

Bill Tieleman’s Georgia Straight Political Connections column
Oct 2-9, 2003

Local "Liberals" Prime B.C. for Martinizing

By Bill Tieleman

After promising to reverse the course of the hated Tory government, Paul Martin actually went on to embrace the policies of that administration with breathtaking enthusiasm, refashioning the role of government to an extent never dared by Brian Mulroney.

- Murray Dobbin, Paul Martin: CEO for Canada?

Forget "unite the right" merger talks between the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party.

A far more powerful right-wing alliance is being forged by two other political parties: the Paul Martin Liberal party of Canada and the B.C. Liberal party of Premier Gordon Campbell.

Unlike the loveless union that would result from a shotgun wedding between Alliance leader Stephen Harper and Conservative leader Peter McKay, the Paul Martin­-Gordon Campbell match is a joyful political same-sex marriage.

The connections between the federal Liberal Martinites and their B.C. Liberal counterparts are legion, though neither side is publicly announcing the love that dare not speak its name.

But from deputy premier Christy Clark on down, the B.C. Liberals are loaded with Martin disciples eager to help see Paul ascend to his rightful place as prime minister, stepping over the bodies of Jean Chrétien, Sheila Copps, and others who thwarted him.

Both Liberal parties see much to gain. The financially destitute B.C. Liberals, officially a separate party, desperately need money from Martin for projects they can't afford themselves.

The federal party needs provincial party help to elect more B.C. MPs.

The B.C. Liberals, of course, are "liberal" in name only. After the 1996 election choke, Gordon Campbell realized he needed the provincial Reform party's 10-percent vote for a Liberal win.

So he courted B.C. Reformers (and former Social Credit followers) like Richard Neufeld, now energy and mines minister, and Martyn Brown, now Campbell's chief of staff, to join his Liberal fold.

Then Campbell sold his liberal soul to win redneck votes, attacking the historic Nisga'a treaty and promising a divisive referendum on aboriginal treaties.

Paul Martin, for his part, will become the most right-wing federal Liberal leader ever. Author Murray Dobbin's new book, Paul Martin: CEO for Canada?, argues that Martin will easily displace former Conservative PM Brian Mulroney as Canada's farthest-right prime minister.

Dobbin's book makes a convincing case that Martin is a Gordon Campbell for all of Canada. For example, Martin waxed eloquent in his 1995 budget speech about slashing social-program spending down to levels not seen since the days when men wore fedoras and drove Studebakers.

"Relative to the size of our economy, program spending will be lower in 1996-97 than at any time since 1951," Martin extolled. Dobbin says that while Mulroney cut federal social-program funding by 25 percent over nine years, Martin axed it a further 40 percent in just four years.

B.C. suffered big time from the Martin cuts of the 1990s, losing at least $2.5 billion in health and social-program funding.

But Martin's B.C. campaign team still thinks Paul is the province's best friend. Led by Education Minister Clark's husband, Mark Marissen of Burrard Communications, the Martinites are a controversial group of Liberals, many working for Martin since his 1990 leadership loss to Chrétien.

Marissen is a communications consultant who has done well through the patronage of his former boss, Environment Minister David Anderson, and Martin.

A "BC Campaign Structure" federal Liberal document leaked to the Georgia Straight reveals another key member of the Martinite team with deep B.C. Liberal roots.

Former Paul Martin aide Erik Bornmann is a provincial lobbyist with Pilothouse Public Affairs Group, started by former Vancouver Province political columnist Brian Kieran. The Martin document shows Bornmann in charge of "operations".

The Pilothouse Web site says Bornmann has "over a decade of political experience inside both the B.C. Liberal Party and Liberal Party of Canada, serving in advisory and elected director capacities". Bornmann apparently earned the nickname "Spider-Man" for daring, gravity-defying feats connected to the federal Liberal membership.

Another key Martinite active in both Liberal parties is also a Pilothouse lobbyist. Jamie Elmhirst is a former David Anderson aide who recently served as ministerial assistant to Joyce Murray, B.C. Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, after years with the B.C. Liberals in opposition.

Victoria insiders say that up to 60 percent of B.C. Liberal political staff are Martinites, including David Basi, ministerial assistant to Finance Minister Gary Collins.

The Marissen-Clark family connection with Martin is further cemented by Bruce Clark, Christy's brother, who serves on the Liberal Party of Canada's B.C. executive.

But despite media fawning over Martin's vaunted B.C. machine, a Liberal source says leadership voter turnout languished below 25 percent of the estimated 44,000 party members. That number raises questions about Marissen's ability to pull the vote when it really matters: the federal election expected by May 2004.

Speculation is rampant that several current B.C. Liberal MLAs, including Christy Clark, will run for the federal Liberal Party in that election, forcing multiple provincial byelections should they win. More on the Martinizing of British Columbia in a future column.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas to all!

Bill Tieleman photo - Van Dusen Gardens, January 2007

My very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and wonderful holiday season to all my readers, posters and friends!

I will try to keep up with your postings as best as possible over the holidays but there will be some delays as we enjoy Christmas with family.

Cheers to all,

Bill Tieleman

Friday, December 21, 2007

FOI shows Public Affairs Bureau officer reported to BC government on Basi-Virk case about NDP MLAs, Gary Collins' lawyer at Court - but what was cut?

Report shows gov't followed trial



A Public Affairs Bureau officer reported to the B.C. government about media questions and the attendance of NDP MLAs and a lawyer representing former B.C. Liberal Finance Minister Gary Collins at pre-trial hearings in the B.C. Legislature raid case, a 24 hours Freedom Of Information request shows.

24 hours first disclosed Stuart Chase's attendance in May 14 and it became the topic of an entire question period in the B.C. Legislature, with Attorney-General Wally Oppal wrongly insisting Chase's duties were to assist the media and public but refusing to release his reports.

In fact, the 100-page FOI of Chase's reports and notes shows that he told the government who attended court and what questions media asked prosecutors and defence, as well as extensively detailing the case, in which former provincial aides David Basi and Bob Virk face breach of trust charges related to the 2003 privatization of B.C. Rail.

"Note that two NDP MLAs were in and out of the courtroom today, taking notes on what was being said," the April 27 report reads. "As far as the media is concerned, other than talking amongst themselves about the AG's new nickname, there were no comments or questions from media after the hearing today."

Oppal's nickname became "StoneWally" for not answering questions.

And Chase kept an eye out for 24 hours.

"The Canucks/GM Place ownership trial has started today, and it's creating a media frenzy that's dividing attentions away from the Basi trial. Bill Tielman, [sic] even, has barely been in the court room," reads Chase's April 30th report.

The FOI request had many sections removed.

24 hours has appealed that decision to the FOI Commissioner.


Chase and about 200 Public Affairs Bureau staff are political appointees hired by Order-In-Council – that is, the B.C. cabinet – and are employed “at pleasure” until their appointments are rescinded.

That was a change made by the B.C. Liberals in their first term - previously most government communications staff were public servants hired through the normal process and protected by their BC Government and Service Employees Union contract. Now they can be fired at any point by cabinet - which realistically means the Premier's Office.

Chase's reports are extremely detailed - and he shows a good eye for courtroom coverage.

In one dispatch Chase notes that president Justice Elizabeth Bennett was “visibly irritated” by a lack of disclosure of evidence to the defence and in another quotes Virk’s lawyer Kevin McCullough as alleging there might be “a privileged relationship that seems to exist between the RCMP and the B.C. Liberals.”

The severed sections were ruled "out of scope" - that is, out of the scope of my FOI request and therefore not disclosed.

But those severed sections come at very interesting junctures.

For example, here is what Chase wrote in handwritten notes dated April 23, 2007 leading up to an exclusion:

"March 29, 2006 News from Pilothouse P.A." - the next six lines are whited-out in the FOI.

In an article I wrote for The Tyee on that day's court hearing there were a number of defence allegations made, focusing on dirty tricks directed from staff in the office of Premier Gordon Campbell, in particular stacking radio talk shows with phony guests.

But there were also many references to Pilothouse Public Affairs and two of its partners, Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran - both of whom are alleged by police to have provided bribes to David Basi and Bob Virk - and both of whom are now Crown witnesses not facing any charges. A third Pilothouse partner, Jamie Elmhirst, has been subpoenaed to testify in the trial.

Among the allegations made by the defence that day which I reported were:

"That key Crown witnesses against Basi and Virk -- provincial lobbyists Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran -- were allowed by the RCMP and Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino to continue their lucrative lobbying business even after disclosing that they had "made serious bribes" to the two aides to obtain government information on the B.C. Rail deal.

That the RCMP knew Bornmann had lied to the media when he issued a statement saying he had been cleared of any wrongdoing but did nothing about it, not informing the government of the truth.

That there was "obviously some sort of deal" between Bornmann and the RCMP and Special Prosecutor to allow his lobbying to continue because he was acting as the key Crown witness."

And in another report dated Tuesday May 15, 2007 at 9:30 a.m. the initial 12 lines of Chase's report are removed. In notes from that afternoon over a full page is severed.

The first line from the 9:30 a.m. report that is included in the FOI reads:

"Bud Bishop was aware that Debrechyre had relationship by family to Kelly Reichert, only by way of the letter. First troubling issue to McCullough is the BC Liberal Party involvement in the issue. Recalled a comm b/t Reichert and Campbell that outlined charges which would be laid."

This section apparently refers to RCMP Sargeant Bud Bishop and RCMP Inspector Kevin DeBruyckere, who was in charge of the investigation despite being the brother-in-law of Kelly Reichert - who is the BC Liberal Party's Executive Director.

The "comm b/t" appears to be the communication between Reichert and Premier Gordon Campbell about possible additional charges that the RCMP were contemplating laying against David Basi over political dirty tricks he allegedly was involved in. Reichert, the defence alleged based on evidence disclosed to them, asked the RCMP not to lay charges as it would be embarrassing to the party. No charges were in fact laid.

Here is what I wrote for 24 hours about the court hearing May 15:

"Virk's defence lawyer Kevin McCullough alleged that the RCMP consulted B.C. Liberal Party Executive Director Kelly Reichert, who told Premier Gordon Campbell that criminal charges were recommended against Basi.McCullough alleged an "effort by Reichert to not have the charges approved. That reeks of political interference."

The allegations come from a June 24, 2005 RCMP report titled: "Kelly Reichert - Do Not Disclose."

McCullough said a recorded RCMP interview with Reichert was stopped but a conversation continued.

"After the tape was turned off Mr. Reichert was asked if the Liberal Party was comfortable being the victim in three payments to Basi. Reichert said frankly any good to the party by prosecutions would be outweighed by the embarrassment to the party, with the issue of the load of manure dumped on Jim Sinclair's lawn and sending people to the B.C. Federation of Labour convention," McCullough alleged.

Sinclair told 24 hours there were protesters at the Federation convention but that his home was never attacked. Sinclair asked why the RCMP would allegedly consult the Liberal Party but not the Federation."

Chase's notes are again whited-out in the afternoon session of court on May 15, starting just after McCullough tells Justice Elizabeth Bennett that he needs Bornmann's lawyer George McIntosh in court for cross-examination regarding the agreement reached with Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino that resulted in Bornmann becoming the key Crown witness and not facing any charges.

The severed section lasts for 36 lines, then continues with: "Letter noting Collins was not advised of surveillance - March 24, 2004. Facts are inconsistent with reasoning of Sgt. Debruckyer given the fact that he had knowledge of wiretaps. Mentioned the meeting w Claude Richmond again, w took place in Kamloops to get Richmond's permission to search the house."

So what was said in BC Supreme Court on May 15 that the Public Affairs Bureau wanted whited out between those two disclosed segments?

The FOI appeal may reveal that but fortunately, we can get some immediate idea from my own courtroom notes, which do not mirror Chase's but may be informative.

That afternoon defence lawyer McCullough was exploring the details of the Crown's deal with Erik Bornmann.

McCullough quoted from "RCMP Sgt. Finner's notes" in court [possibly Sgt. Pat Finner]:

"Mr. Bornmann said he'd received a letter from Mr. Berardino. I was aware that Mr. Berardino had spoken to the media and said that Mr. Bornmann's interpretation may be misleading to the public."

McCullough then drew his own conclusion: "Mr. Berardino, apparently was contacting the media directly. We have no disclosure of that....he was concerned that Mr. Bornmann was taking advantage of that self-exoneration so he could lobby, lobby, lobby and make money, money, money. So he could go on to a law career."

There were other topics that afternoon but Bornmann's deal was the main one. Why references to it were removed from the FOI request as "out of scope" is just another puzzling question in a very puzzling case.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Basi-Virk pre-trial hearing not on today - adjourned until January?

There was no pre-trial hearing on the Basi-Virk case today in BC Supreme Court - I understand there are no further court dates this week and possibly until January 2008.

I will update this situation when I learn more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poll shows strong opposition to Tsawwassen Treaty removing farmland but support for treaties in general; Liberals, NDP out of touch, say critics

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday December 18, 2007

Public keen to protect farmland

Public opposes removing farmland from ALR for Tsawwassen treaty but supports treaties


For me, every ruler is alien that defies public opinion.

- Mohandas Gandhi

British Columbians strongly oppose removing farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve to reach a treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation, an exclusive 24 hours' poll shows. But the same poll indicates solid support in general for negotiating treaties with B.C. First Nations.

And a prominent environmentalist says the poll shows that the governing B.C. Liberal Party and the opposition New Democratic Party are both out of step with public opinion after their MLAs voted overwhelmingly for the treaty that will exclude farmland from the ALR to allow Deltaport container shipping expansion.

By almost two to one, British Columbians polled last month by
Strategic Communications said they opposed removing Delta farmland from the ALR, with 57 per cent opposed versus 29 per cent in favour.

And 37 per cent were strongly opposed, versus 14 per cent strongly in favour. The remainder were undecided.

The question posed to 600 people across B.C. was: "Do you support or oppose the provincial government removing farmland from the agricultural land reserve to reach a Treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation and allowing the band to do what it pleases with that land?"

But on the general question of negotiating treaties with First Nations, 71 per cent were in favour, with 44 per cent strongly so, and 19 per cent were opposed.

The results pleased politicians and environmentalists who fought the deal over removing farmland from the ALR and turning it over to the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows
MLA Michael Sather, who was temporarily suspended from the NDP caucus for opposing the treaty, was pleased the polling supports his position.

"It's gratifying that people value agricultural land that much," Sather said. "But I remain concerned about other treaties in the pipeline and other challenges to the ALR."

The B.C. Farmland Defence League's Donna Passmore was blunt.

"What these results show is that both the leaders of the B.C Liberal Party and the NDP are completely out of touch with the people of B.C. and their own voters," Passmore said. "People will not be held hostage to First Nations over issues of guilt to the point that it obstructs issues about our future, especially farmland."

Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, B.C. Assembly of First Nations regional chief, disagrees.

"Once the land is back, it's up to them [the Tsawwassen First Nation] to decide what to do with it," Atleo said. "As First Nations, we did not institute these land-management processes."

"The notion that First Nations are going to be wanton land owners and destroy everything just doesn't make sense," Atleo said, while acknowledging public opinion. "I think First Nations need to hear what public concerns are. The issues around land use are welcome discussions between neighbours."

And Atleo is glad treaty-making in general is backed.

"I'm very pleased to hear the public supports reconciliation," he said. "It's absolutely critical that the public not only understand but pressures government to reconcile aboriginal and Crown titles."

Joe Foy, campaign director for the
Western Canada Wilderness Committee - one of the only environmental groups to speak against farmland removal - said the poll is "great" news.

"The people get it, according to this poll," Foy said. "People at least have a sense of the strings that are being pulled here. There's a reason this scheme came forward to pave over farmland and people can see that."

Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, a longtime farmland advocate, was pleased but said he doubted the poll would change the NDP, which said it wants farmland protected but voted for the treaty.

"Whether that message will get through to the NDP, I'm doubtful," he said. "The NDP seem to be sitting in the last century."

Corky Evans, the MLA and former agriculture minister who responded to a 24 hours' request to the NDP for reaction, agreed the party is in a tough spot choosing between a treaty and farmland protection.

"Tsawwassen created a bit of a precedent. It isn't resolved yet but it would be exceedingly difficult for the party to say 'not this one'" to a future treaty, said Evans, who personally abstained from the legislature vote on the treaty.

John Willis, campaigns and research director for Strategic Communications, 24 hours Vancouver's official pollster, said the contrast in the two questions was striking.

"That's a pretty significant shift from supporting treaties in general to opposing the Tsawwassen Treaty," Willis said.

Strategic Communications polled 600 British Columbians Nov. 22 to 29, with a plus or minus four per cent margin of error, 19 times out of 20.

This column takes a Christmas break, returning Jan. 8, but watch my blog for more on this and other news!


Question: Do you support or oppose the province removing farmland from the agricultural land reserve to reach a treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation and allowing the band to do what it pleases with that land?

Strongly support - 13.6%
Somewhat support - 15.8%

Strongly oppose - 37.3%
Somewhat oppose - 19.8%

Neither - 2.4% 9.8% didn't know and 1.2% refused to answer

Question: Do you support or oppose negotiating final settlement treaties with B.C. First Nations?

Strongly support - 43.6%
Somewhat support - 27.8%

Strongly oppose - 13.2%
Somewhat oppose - 6.0%

Neither - 2.6%

6% didn't know and .8% refused to answer

Friday, December 14, 2007

Basi-Virk defence alleges solicitor-client privilege claim instructions in case came from BC cabinet; may cross-examine Deputy Cabinet Secretary

Lawyers for the defence in the Basi-Virk case made strong allegations this afternoon that instructions to claim solicitor-client privilege over documents related to the $1 billion BC Rail privatization came from "cabinet" rather than from provincial bureaucrats in the Attorney-General's ministry.

And defence counsel questioned statements made in the BC Legislature by Premier Gordon Campbell about the openness his government was demonstrating regarding providing documents they say are needed to defend their clients, three former BC government aides.

Lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi also gave BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett notice that they may seek to cross-examine both the current and the former Deputy Cabinet Secretary about their role in providing instructions on the privilege issue.

"The issue of who's giving instructions is significant," said Kevin McCullough, Virk's lawyer. "There's a real issue when the Deputy Attorney General was providing instructions and when instructions were provided by Cabinet."

McCullough said the defence may seek to cross-examine former Deputy Cabinet Secretary Joy Illington and current Deputy Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth MacMillan.

Outside the court, Michael Bolton, David Basi's lawyer, told reporters that the defence questions statements made by Campbell in the Legislature that had been quoted earlier today by George Copley, the government's lawyer.

"What we said was that Mr. Copley had quoted the Premier saying there would be openness about these documents and that's not consistent with the position taken," Bolton said.

In court McCullough made clear that he did not doubt Copley's integrity at all but he did question Campbell's statements in the BC Legislature during debate with New Democratic Party leader Carole James over the premier's office estimates that the Deputy Attorney General was dealing with issues of privilege in the Basi-Virk case. [See earlier report below for Hansard quotes]

"The instructions really are driving the way you ought to interpret the government's assertions of solicitor-client privilege," McCullough told Bennett. "The Deputy Cabinet Secretary is ultimately who's instructing Mr. Copley with respect to privilege."

Earlier Bennett agreed that the defence could cross-examine Nancy Reimer, an assistant to government lawyer George Copley, on Tuesday December 18 regarding an affadavit she prepared outlining privilege issues in the case from the province's perspective. Reimer was excused from the court for part of the afternoon because of that request.

The defence will make further arguments on Monday December 17 at 10 a.m. on the solicitor-client privilege issue.


Government lawyer in Basi-Virk case argues against releasing BC Rail privatization to defence but says "fully cooperating"

The government's lawyer in the Basi-Virk case argued in BC Supreme Court this morning that the defence should be denied documents related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail due to solicitor-client privilege.

But George Copley argued that the government was being "completely open and cooperative" in its approach.

And in a surprising move, Copley quoted an exchange in the BC Legislature on May 28, 2007 where New Democratic Party leader Carole James extensively questioned Premier Gordon Campbell about the government's cooperation in the case or lack thereof.

At issue are 17 documents that the government is claiming solicitor-client privilege over because they all relate to what it says is legal advice on the BC Rail deal received from law firm Borden Ladner Gervais.

The defence argues the documents should be released for several reasons - including that accused former BC Liberal ministerial assistant Bob Virk actually was provided with them in the course of his duties but now cannot access them; that co-accused David Basi and Aneal Basi should have equal knowledge to what Virk might have from having seen the documents; and that two or more of the documents were released to the defence separately through a Freedom Of Information request previously.

Copley argued the government's case throughout the morning, dismissing all grounds for disclosure and citing past case law to back up his position.

"We have attempted to be completely open and cooperative with the Court, the Special Prosecutor and defence counsel," Copley told Justice Elizabeth Bennett.

He later quoted both James and Campbell from debate in estimates on the premier's office budget.

"On May 28 the premier was responding to questions from the leader of the opposition," Copley said before quoting this segment from Hansard:

"C. James: My question would be to the Premier. Will he commit to releasing documents without invoking privilege?

Hon. G. Campbell: Again, I would go back and say that obviously there are issues with regard to cabinet confidentiality that must be and would be considered in these issues. Having said that, my goal and the objective of the government throughout has been to proceed with an unfettered and, frankly, independent process.

There's a special prosecutor in place, and I will not be involved in those discussions. That has been delegated to the Deputy Attorney General, and he will make those decisions as he sees fit."

Copley then continued to quote the premier's answer to another question:

"Hon. G. Campbell: I do want the Leader of the Opposition to understand what I've done here. In terms of the screening of cabinet documents, all those [ Page 8246 ] documents will be available to the Deputy Attorney General. He will make the decision vis-à-vis cabinet confidentiality or any of those issues in consultation with the special prosecutor."

Copley then interjected that: "I think the premier's not got that entirely correct" and then continued back to Hansard.

"He will make the decision without any further consultation with me or anyone in the Premier's office," the rest of Campbell's answer read.

BC Rail lawyer Robert Deane will also argue against disclosure in the afternoon, followed by defence rebuttal either Friday or Monday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

December 12, 2007

Basi-Virk defence slams provincial gov't


The defence in the B.C. Legislature Raid case slammed the provincial government repeatedly yesterday, alleging it considered putting B.C. Rail into bankruptcy to aid its privatization and warning that Premier Gordon Campbell will spend "ample" time being cross-examined.

And lawyers for former government aides David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi alleged in B.C. Supreme Court that senior deputy minister Chris Trumpy was in conflict of interest during the sale of B.C. Rail and that it is provincial "perversity" to withhold information the accused need to defend themselves.

But a government lawyer fired back, categorically denying the province was acting "in some political fashion."

Michael Bolton, lawyer for David Basi, told Justice Elizabeth Bennett that a summary of legal advice the government claims solicitor-client privilege over shows it considered putting B.C. Rail into bankruptcy protection through the federal Creditors' Companies Arrangement Act.

"Bankruptcy for B.C. Rail was one of the things the government was looking at to facilitate the sale of the freight division," Bolton said.

Virk's lawyer Kevin McCullough alleged Trumpy was in conflict because he was on a B.C. Rail deal evaluation committee and later chief negotiator while chairing the B.C. Investment Management Corporation that held more than $350 million in shares of CN Rail, the successful bidder.

Trumpy resigned from the BCIMC, which invests public-sector pension funds.

NOTE - See blog item below for longer story on Tuesday's BC Supreme Court hearing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Basi-Virk defence alleges BC Liberals considered putting BC Rail into bankruptcy to facilitate sale; Deputy Minister Chris Trumpy in conflict?


Defence warns Premier Gordon Campbell will face "ample" cross-examination and calls government position to deny documents to accused a "perversity"

Government lawyer "categorically denies defence charges that "province acting "in some political fashion" in dealing with Basi-Virk case

Were BC Rail property management consultants "people close to the Premier or Cabinet who are being given special consideration?" defence lawyer asks

CN Rail described by defence as "bully" that won BC Rail bid despite "bad behaviour"

BC government, RCMP accused of using media "to manipulate things"

Two documents denied because of solicitor-client privilege by government were obtained by defence through Freedom Of Information request

Over 30 witnesses to testify in trial

Defence lawyers in the Basi-Virk case made serious allegations against the provincial government in BC Supreme Court this morning, disclosing that consideration was given to putting BC Rail into bankruptcy and insolvency protection to facilitate its privatization.

The defence also alleged that Chris Trumpy, then Deputy Minister of Revenue to then-Finance Minister Gary Collins, was in a conflict of interest situation because of his multiple roles in both the sale of BC Rail and as Chair of the BC Investment Management Corporation, which held over $360 million in CN Rail shares at the time.

And defence counsel criticized BC government attempts to block disclosure of 17 documents to the accused based on solicitor-client privilege by revealing they had previously received two of the documents through a Freedom Of Information request filed separately two years ago.

Michael Bolton, lawyer for David Basi, told Justice Elizabeth Bennett that document never disclosed previously show the BC Liberals had an option to put BC Rail into bankruptcy and insolvency protection through the federal Creditors Companies Arrangement Act.

"Bankruptcy for BC Rail was one of the things the government was looking at to facilitate the sale of the freight division," Bolton said.

Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Bob Virk, said Trumpy was placed on the BC Rail Evaluation Committee and was appointed a chief negotiator for the government at the same time he chaired the BCIMC, which invests public pension plan funds in a variety of corporations.

"So the question in my mind was - how could the government appoint someone who was the Chair of their investment management corporation that holds massive CN stock and then appoint him to the Evaluation Committee and be their negotiator?" McCullough asked. "And that's something my client was aware of and concerned that the NDP would get a hold of that."

McCullough later quoted from a December 2003 email from Chris Trumpy regarding the BC Rail Roberts Bank Sub Port privatization - a bid that was later cancelled after the RCMP advised the government it had learned the process had been compromised.

"I am stepping out of the evaluation process for the Sub Port until such time as I have received advice on a real or perceived conflict," McCullough said Trumpy wrote.

McCullough then stated: "It is remote that the Premier and Minister Collins aren't aware of these conflicts and the question is - what are they doing about it?"

Watch here in the days ahead for a full report with the details on these and many other allegations made in court today by the defence. Sorry I am unable to produce that information immediately.

The pre-trial hearing continues with a response to defence claims from government lawyer George Copley and BC Rail lawyer Robert Deane on Friday December 14 at 10 a.m. More on that here as well.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday December 11, 2007

No mistakes in office raid


A lie has no leg but a scandal has wings.

- Thomas Fuller, 1608-1661

Is the B.C. legislature raid case still important almost four years after it occurred on Dec. 28, 2003?

After all, the trial of three B.C. Liberal government aides alleged to have given confidential documents to lobbyists in the $1 billion B.C. Rail privatization has still has not occurred and some doubt it ever will.

But as I surveyed the wreckage of my ransacked office Dec. 3 and found an unmistakable "calling card" carefully placed on top of broken ceiling tiles left when intruders crashed in, the answer was very clear - "yes" indeed.

Whoever took a press kit for The Raid - Ken Merkley's fictional book based on the case - from my desk and put it atop the rubble, along with leaving filing cabinets open and stealing nothing, knew what they were doing.

And they went to a lot of trouble to get into my office.

The intruders gained entry at night to a locked office building.

They tried to smash through the drywall to open my office door and failed, then also failed to crowbar it open, then smashed open the door of the adjoining office, moved a desk against the wall, pushed out the acoustic tiles, climbed into the ceiling, over the wall, pushed in my acoustic tiles and dropped into my office.

The intruders did not attempt to break-in to any other office.

So the message was obvious - they don't like what I write about the B.C. Legislature Raid case in 24 hours or www.thetyee.-ca or my blog at billtieleman.

My answer - I will not be intimidated by criminals.

But why is this case - often unreported by many media - so important?

Because the stakes are extremely high - for the accused - David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi - who potentially face years in jail and whose lives have been totally disrupted.

For Premier Gordon Campbell - defence lawyers alleged in B.C. Supreme Court his staff directed political dirty tricks.

For the B.C. Liberal government - which could face electoral defeat if the scandal implicates its members in wrongdoing, even if not illegal.

For the RCMP - accused by the defence of conflict of interest and abuse of process in the investigation. One investigator bought a house from David Basi's mother before the raid. A supervising officer is the B.C. Liberal Party's executive director's brother-in-law.

For the federal Liberal Party - some of its former B.C. branch executives had their offices searched by police and will testify in court.

For lobbyists Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran - alleged to have provided bribes, they are now Crown witnesses facing no charges.

So however long it takes, when the truth comes out, a reckoning will take place.

Basi-Virk: BC government claiming solicitor-client privilege over BC Rail documents - fight for access resumes in BC Supreme Court Tuesday

The BC Liberal provincial government is claiming solicitor-client privilege over a number of documents connected to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail - documents that lawyers for three government aides say are needed to defend their clients.

On Tuesday morning lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi will argue that Justice Elizabeth Bennett should release the documents, while government lawyer George Copley will oppose that request.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend BC Supreme Court this morning - but
Canadian Press reports today arguments were made in open court until noon before adjourning till Tuesday morning.

That also means the secret hearing about whether a police informant could be heard in-camera has ended but it is unknown if Bennett has ruled on that matter.

David Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton told the court that there is no basis for maintaining solicitor-client privilege, saying the BC government is hiding behind it. And he said former BC Finance Minister Gary Collins will be a key witness in the case.

"When the merits of the case come to be tried you will, of course, be hearing from a variety of witnesses, including Gary Collins," he said, according to Canadian Press.

Collins denies any wrongdoing in the BC Rail deal but court has heard he was the subject of police surveillance when he met with officials from U.S. bidder OmniTRAX at Villa del Lupo restaurant in Vancouver in November 2003.

Copley, who is the lawyer for the executive branch of the government, told the court documents seized by police are protected by solicitor-client privilege and can't be released to defence lawyers.

Copley said they include advice from lawyers and bankers on the sale of B.C. Rail and are therefore confidential.

Bolton said documents seized in the police raid on the BC Legislature on December 28, 2003 includes information he alleges show that Collins approved a "consolation prize" for OmniTRAX if they stayed in the bidding for BC Rail, CP says.

Canadian Pacific dropped out of the privatization bidding before the winner - CN Rail - was announced, complaining that the process was unfair.

I will be in BC Supreme Court Tuesday - watch here for more coverage.

Friday, December 07, 2007

BC Legislature Raid case may never happen or be further postponed, says veteran lawyer

Basi-Virk trial might be delayed, says lawyer


NOTE TO READERS - this is a short variation of the blog item below.

Three provincial government aides charged in the B.C. legislature raid case could have their trial delayed or even thrown out due to a legally complex secret pre-trial hearing held yesterday in B.C. Supreme Court, says a prominent media lawyer.

Roger McConchie, representing CTV, the Globe and Mail and the Canadian Press at the hearing, said outside court that legal wrangling over the Crown's application to have a judge hear from a police informant in secret could delay the March 2008 trial date or even put it off forever.

Special Prosecutor Janet Winteringham asked Justice Elizabeth Bennett to grant a Section 37 certificate under the Canada Evidence Act to grant "informer privilege" for a secret witness.

The certificate would exclude media, the public and even defense lawyers from the court. Lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi, the three aides facing charges connected to the $1-billion privatization of B.C. Rail, opposed the application in a hearing closed to media and the public that is expected to continue today.

"If the certificate is sustained, counsel for the accused can apply to the Appeal Court. My guess would be if that happens, the March trial date would be delayed," McConchie told 24 hours.

But McConchie also said that if a defence appeal is filed: "It's anyone's guess if this is ever going to go to trial."

McConchie described the case as like a Matryoshka Russian nesting doll. "It is a truly nested doll hearing - I've never seen one before. How far down is this series of nested doll in-camera hearings [are we] going to go?" McConchie asked.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Will Basi-Virk secret witness hearing involving police informer delay or derail whole trial? Veteran lawyer wonders


The trial of three provincial government aides charged in the BC Legislature Raid case could be further delayed - or even never happen - thanks to a lengthy and legally complex pre-trial hearing today in BC Supreme Court, says a prominent media lawyer.

Veteran lawyer Roger McConchie, representing CTV, the Globe and Mail and the Canadian Press, told reporters outside court that legal wrangling over the right of the Crown to have a judge hear from a police informant in secret - without defence counsel, the media or public in attendance could delay the March 2008 trial date - or even put it off forever.

McConchie described the legal proceedings as like a Russian Matryoshka nesting doll, where each doll conceals another inside.

At stake - a Special Prosecutor application to Justice Elizabeth Bennett for a Section 37 certificate under the Canada Evidence Act that would grant "informer privilege" for a witness and exclude even defence lawyers from the courtroom.

"If the certificate is sustained, counsel for the accused can apply to the Appeal Court. My guess would be if that happens, the March trial date would be delayed," McConchie said.

"If the certificate fails then we're back to this morning's decision and counsel for the defence get to stay. If not, counsel for the accused can file an appeal and if that happens, it's anyone's guess if this is ever going to go to trial," said.

Then McConchie described the whole situation as like a Matryoshka.

"It is a truly nested doll hearing - I've never seen one before. How far down is this series of nested doll in-camera hearings going to go?" McConchie asked.
A sign at BC Supreme Court Room 54 says it all for this afternoon:
"This Courtroom Is Closed To The Public."

After a lunchtime adjournment Bennett heard arguments against the secret witness application from defence counsel for David Basi, Bob Virk, who face breach of trust and fraud charges, and Aneal Basi, who faces money laundering charges.

All charges stem from allegations by police that Dave Basi and Bob Virk passed on confidential government documents regarding the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail to one of the bidders through lobbyist Erik Bornmann, now the Crown's key witness. Aneal Basi is alleged to have passed on money from Bornmann to Dave Basi.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what the defence argued in court because Justice Bennett banned the media, the public and media lawyers shortly after the hearing resumed.

And defence lawyers leaving the closed courtroom for an afternoon break declined all comment, citing the judge's ruling that the hearing proceed in secret.

Bennett did relax the temporary publication ban on proceedings that had been imposed earlier.

That ban had prevented me and other journalists from temporarily even reporting that the secret hearing was about hiding the identity of a police informant, even though we had previously reported it without restriction.

Earlier Bennett cited a long list of legal cases before ruling that defence lawyers could remain in the court room to hear the Crown's application.

"I do not conclude that Named Person applies to the exclusion of defence counsel," Bennett said. "I rule defence may be present, given certain undertakings." Those undertakings, she said, would protect the identity of the informer from being disclosed.

But that ruling caused Special Prosecutor Janet Winteringham to ask for the Section 37 application, which would again see the defence counsel excluded. [Lead Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino was absent today.]

And Winteringham felt Bennett's temper when she first told the Justice that the Crown would delay filing the application.

Winteringham: "I'd like to file it Monday."

Bennett: "That's one sentence - I don't understand. I want it today. When can you have it?"

Winteringham: "Yes. By 11:30 a.m."
The secret hearing - and the ban on media and the public - continues on Friday.

It is unclear if or when defence counsel might be excluded too, if Justice Bennett so orders.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Basi-Virk case secret BC Supreme Court hearing - decision on Thursday whether to exclude defendants, lawyers from court


Strictly hush-hush


The results of a secret B.C. Supreme Court hearing that excluded both the media and public in the case of three provincial government aides charged with breach of trust, fraud and money laundering will be announced Thursday.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett said yesterday she will decide whether even defence lawyers and defendants David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi will be allowed to hear secret material to be presented by the Crown in an in-camera application.

A temporary publication ban imposed by Bennett restricts much of what can be reported.

The case involves allegations that confidential government documents related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail were given to lobbyists for a bidder.


Michael Bolton, lawyer for David Basi, was concerned about possible exclusion of defendants and their legal counsel.

"It goes well beyond an in-camera hearing. It's very, very, very unusual to the point of being almost an unconscionable concept to exclude the accused person from part of his trial," Bolton said outside court Monday.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Carole Taylor for Vancouver Mayor? No thanks, with her record

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday December 4, 2007

Mayor Taylor? No, thank you


All charming people, I fancy, are spoiled. It is the secret of their attraction.

- Oscar Wilde

Apparently I am one of the few people immune to the charms of Carole Taylor because, to me, the idea of B.C.'s finance minister becoming Vancouver's next mayor is simply appalling.

So while Taylor's announcement that she won't run again for Premier Gordon Campbell's B.C. Liberals has prompted the breathless media attention reserved for a royal abdication, a harder look at Taylor's record shows less than charming results.

Taylor has clearly championed the province's already well-off while bypassing the needy. Among her failures as finance minister and number two power in government:

Child poverty - B.C. has the worst record in Canada for four years in a row, advocacy group
First Call reported last month. B.C.'s proportion of children living in poverty was 21 per cent, yet the government has no plan, despite Taylor's $2 billion budget surplus.

Minimum wage - One way to reduce child poverty would be to raise B.C.'s $8 minimum wage but there hasn't been an increase in eight years. The B.C. Federation of Labour calculates that 250,000 people work for under $10 an hour.

Tax breaks for wealthy - No minimum wage hike but Taylor made sure this year that those owning homes worth up to a whopping $950,000 got the $570
provincial homeowner grant, an increase in the threshold value of $265,000 in just two years. And last year Taylor raised the threshold on the luxury car tax to $55,000 from $49,000, perfect for BMW SUV buyers.

Convention centre - Cost overruns have reached what the Canadian Taxpayers Federation calls an "outrageous" $388 million with Taylor as finance minister - where was her watchful eye on B.C.'s second biggest project?

Cambie Street merchants - Taylor blames TransLink for not compensating small businesses that have lost everything due to the $1.7 billion Canada Line rapid transit construction mess when everyone knows the provincial government is really in charge. And yet many of the suffering merchants are in her own riding.

Public-private partnerships - Taylor recently questioned using a P3 model for the Canada Line but her government's policy is that every single public project over $20 million must consider the P3 approach.

And Taylor said exactly the opposite about the overrun-plagued convention centre, arguing that it should have been a P3. Huh?

B.C. economy - The province is returning to mediocre economic performance after a construction- fuelled boom, with Taylor downgrading gross domestic product growth projections to just 3.1 per cent next year.
That places B.C. fifth in Canada, behind powerhouses like Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.

Vancouver needs a better mayor than the lackluster Sam Sullivan. But the Gucci-heeled Carole Taylor is hardly a good alternative.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tieleman's office broken in - BC Legislature Raid calling card left but nothing stolen

Over the weekend my office was broken into and trashed, with a clear BC Legislature Raid calling card left to make sure I knew why it happened.

As many will have already read on the Tyee or in 24 hours Tuesday edition, the Vancouver Police Department is investigating why a person or persons unknown went to extreme lengths to force their way into my office, go through my files and ransack the place without stealing anything.

But the message was made obvious - a copy of the press kit for Ken Merkley's fiction book about the BC Legislature Raid case was carefully removed from my desk and placed on top of the broken acoustic tiles from my ceiling - where the criminal or criminals entered. And my main file cabinet was opened and left open.

There is no other possible explanation for how that press kit for "The Raid" - with its cover photo of the actual police search of the BC Legislature - could have gotten from my desktop to a spot several feet away on top of a broken ceiling tile.

This was a message and it must have everything to do with my reporting on the long, winding case of breach of trust and fraud charges against former BC Ministerial Aides David Basi and Bob Virk and money laundering charges against former government communication aide Aneal Basi, all related to allegations the secret government documents were provided to lobbyists bidding on the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003.

Here's what happened: sometime over the weekend someone tried to first break in to my office by smashing through the drywall to reach in and unlook my door. They were unable to get through the wall despite making a large hole.

Then they tried with a crowbar or other tools to pry open the door, damaging it and the frame but not getting through.

Failing this, they took a crowbar to the office next to mine, succeeding in prying it open.

Upon entering this office, recently vacated, they attempted to force their way in through a deadlocked door between the two offices and failed.

They then pushed a leftover desk against the joint wall, pushed through the ceiling acoustic tiles, climbed into the roof and pushed my ceiling tiles through.

They then entered my office, opened my file cabinet and apparently went through my files - though on first examination nothing seems missing.

Two large bookshelves full of material were pushed over before the attacker or attackers exited back through the ceiling.

The lock on my door was so badly damaged that it had to be drilled out by a locksmith before police and I could get inside to examine the results.

As you can see from the accompanying photos from 24 hours photographer Rob Kruyt, my office is a disheartening mess. It will take some time to clean up and reorganize before it is usable.

But in addition to the BC Legislature raid calling card left as a message, it is also very clear that the intruders had no interest in stealing anything of value.

Two computers, fax machine, laser printer, scanner, spare cell phone, microwave, fridge - nothing was removed or even touched. I could find nothing stolen at all on first check.

Let me be clear - I find this break-in very disturbing.

But I will not let criminals intimidate me.

I have sources developed over four years of covering this story - their identities are protected and secure.

And I have information - some of which has been published, some which has not - it is also secure and is not vulnerable to break-ins.

I am cooperating fully with the Vancouver Police Department and thank them for attending quickly and investigating thoroughly despite obvious demands on their time.

This break-in only shows to me how important the BC Legislature Raid case really is, despite some efforts to relegate it to a minor story - it is decidedly not.

Lastly, I want to send a big thank you to everyone who has called, emailed or posted on this website, the Tyee website, the BC Legislature Raids website or anywhere else.

Your messages are very encouraging and I will continue to diligently investigate this story and report on it as fully as I am able.

Thank you and stay tuned.

Tieleman sidelined by emergency - unable to cover Basi-Virk pre-trial hearing in-camera application

An emergency situation occurred today that regrettably took me out of BC Supreme Court and reporting on a rare secret hearing that took place today in the Basi-Virk case.

You will be able to read about that emergency in tomorrow's 24 hours newspaper and The Tyee online publication, as well as on this blog Tuesday.

I can only say at this point that it does have to do with the BC Legislature Raid case and you will find it quite astonishing.

Meanwhile, the pre-trial hearing on an in-camera application today saw Justice Elizabeth Bennett exclude the public and media.

I was in attendance for part of the hearing and will attempt to update you on Tuesday.

My Vancouver Sun colleague Neal Hall has done an excellent job covering the situation however and you can find a lot of information in his report.

Stephane Dion Liberal mailing on InSite safe injection site called "fearmongering" by Conservatives and "a waste" by NDP

Liberals' InSite mail-out panned


A federal Liberal Party mailing from leader Stephane Dion into a Vancouver riding about the controversial InSite safe drug injection site is under attack as "fear mongering" by the Conservatives, while the New Democratic Party calls it a "waste."

And the mailing, which misspells the word "minister" in referring to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is a "rush job" and "confusing," say the two parties.

The November mailing to thousands of households in NDP Member of Parliament Libby Davies' Vancouver East riding accuses the Conservative federal government of "dithering" on renewing InSite's mandate and says "harm reduction saves lives."

But Davies says the Liberals' mailing is ironic.

"I wish they'd done a lot more on harm reduction when they were in government but they don't talk about that," Davies said in an interview, calling it a "waste."

Conservative Party spokesperson Ryan Sparrow said the Liberal mailing strategy is "confusing" and rejected its points.

"We've long been the party that delivers initiatives rather than fear mongering," he said from Ottawa.

But Liberal Party Communications Director Elizabeth Whiting told 24 hours from Ottawa that InSite is a "major issue" worthy of mailing on.

Whiting said MPs can mail up to 10 per cent of a non- incumbent riding with their message, paid out of their House of Commons budget, not the party's.

InSite recently got a six-month extension to continue operating until June 2008.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

One year of Bill Tieleman's Blog - thanks for 68,384 visits!!

This blog has just celebrated it's first anniversary and I want to thank everyone who has visited in the past year!

Bill Tieleman's blog has had 68,384 visits in the past year from 23,196 different visitors!

Quite appropriately on our blog birthday we celebrated the most hits ever in a single day - 1,317 on November 24 - due to an extended article on the latest developments in the never-ending Basi-Virk case in BC Supreme Court.

I want to also thank several websites that have kindly referred their visitors to this site, in particular The Tyee online publication - David Beers, editor, where I also regularly write on Basi-Virk and other topics; Public Eye Online - my 24 hours colleague Sean Holman's excellent must-read website on political news; Bourque Newswatch - where Pierre Bourque has put together the best ongoing compendium of what's news in Canada and the world - and where I got a tremendous boost November 24 when my blog story was headlined; The Legislature Raids, where the indefatiguable BC Mary holds court - literally at times! - on the Basi-Virk case and more; The Gazetteer, another tireless blogger on BC and other politics; David Schreck's Strategic Thoughts - where you can find the best number crunching debunking in BC; and the wonderfully named House Of Infamy, where Kootcoot presides.

So thanks again and please stay tuned to this website for even more news and of course, my 24 hours columns and Tyee articles.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Basi-Virk trial takes strange twist with secret witness request, lobbyist Erik Bornmann emails allegedly connected to Premier's office

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday November 27, 2007

Basi-Virk takes a bizarre turn


The strangest twist in the long-awaited B.C. legislature raid case has seen the Crown apply to have three secret witnesses testify in the breach of trust, fraud and money laundering trial.

And special prosecutor Bill Berardino wants the application for one of the witnesses to be heard without even defence lawyers present - a highly unusual situation last seen in the Air India bombing trial when a police informant wanted on criminal charges in a foreign country wanted to avoid identification.

Berardino asked B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett to hold a secret hearing that would exclude defence lawyers, the media and the public in the trial of three former provincial government aides.

Lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi seemed stunned Friday when Berardino said he wanted even the defence absent from a hearing Dec. 3 to consider hearing testimony from a witness without identifying them.

There was no discussion on why the defence would be excluded and outside court Berardino and defence lawyers declined comment.

In court, Berardino referred Bennett to "paragraph 46" of an unidentified judgment that is likely Named Person v. Vancouver Sun, where a criminal informer in the Air India bombing wanted to testify without being named.

The court also heard Virk's defence lawyer Kevin McCullough describe e-mails recently obtained from key Crown witness and former provincial lobbyist Erik Bornmann as "out of this world."

Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton said the e-mails: "Pertain in particular to the conduits of information between the premier's office inner circle and the ministries of Finance and Transportation and the Pilothouse lobbyists ... passing information to key members of the premier's inner circle."

Bornmann is alleged by police to have bribed David Basi and Virk to obtain confidential government documents related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003. Aneal Basi is alleged to have forwarded money from Bornmann to his cousin David.

The secret witness issue drew an immediate reaction from the defence.

McCullough told Bennett that the application to exclude defence lawyers from the in-camera hearing would be opposed.

"If he [Berardino] intends to go in-camera without defence counsel, you'll hear arguments from me," he said.

Then a very interesting interjection occurred.

Bolton said to Bennett: "We'll deal with defence counsels' right to be present."

McCullough then said: "I think we've figured it out...."

But Bennett cut him off: "No, just don't say anymore."

Will the public ever learn who wants to testify without being named? Or why?

Stay tuned for "I've Got A Secret" at B.C. Supreme Court starting Dec. 3.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Erik Bornmann "out of this world" emails, secret witness hearing without defence lawyers - Basi-Virk revisited

Railgate: Unearthed E-mails 'Out of this World' Says Defence

'Very critical stuff' from premier's 'inner circle.'

View full article and comments here:

By Bill Tieleman

Published: November 26, 2007

NOTE: This Tyee article is a revised version of earlier reports posted on on Friday in several sections.

Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino dropped a bombshell in B.C. Supreme Court Friday, asking Justice Elizabeth Bennett to exclude defence counsel from attending an application on whether secret witnesses could testify in camera in the B.C. legislature raid trial.

Lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi appeared stunned by the submission by Berardino, telling Bennett they will make arguments against their exclusion when the application is made Dec. 3. The media and public would also be excluded.

And a defence lawyer described thousands of e-mails obtained from key Crown witness and former provincial lobbyist Erik Bornmann as "out of this world."

There was no discussion of who the secret witnesses who do not want to be identified were and outside court Berardino and defence lawyers declined all comment on the issue, citing the justice's ruling in court.

Berardino told reporters after the hearing that he cannot comment in any way on the in-camera secret witness application.

When asked how reporters should find out how to deal with or challenge the possibility of being excluded, Berardino said: "I think like every good citizen, you should consult a lawyer."

Kevin McCullough, defence counsel for Bob Virk, had little more to say.

"With in-camera applications lawyers can't say anything," McCullough said outside the courtroom. "Historically in-camera issues have been around safety issues, organized crime."

Vague allusions

Bennett had earlier told Berardino, before the request to exclude the defence counsel was made, that the in-camera application would be heard in court on December 3.

"You have to notify the media if you intend to hold an in-camera hearing," Bennett said.
When Berardino seemed to object, Bennett asked him if there was "another issue."

Berardino then passed Bennett a previous case judgement and asked her to read "paragraph 46."

"Yes, there is another issue," he said.

After reading the document Bennett replied: "I understood you were talking about people we've discussed before. This is something else."

The most likely case Special Prosecutor Berardino was referring Bennett to is Named Person v. Vancouver Sun at the Supreme Court of Canada, which rendered a judgement on Oct. 11, 2007. Several media outlets joined forces in an effort to identify a secret witness.

That case arose out of the investigation into the bombing of Air India Flight 182 that killed all 329 aboard on June 23, 1985.

The issue in question was whether a police informant could give testimony without being identified.
That informant was also fighting deportation to a foreign country to face criminal charges there.

McCullough told Bennett that the application to exclude defence lawyers from the in-camera hearing would be opposed.

"If he [Berardino] intends to go in camera without defence counsel, you'll hear arguments from me," he said.

Then a very interesting interjection occurred.

Michael Bolton (legal counsel for David Basi) to Bennett: "We'll deal with defence counsels' right to be present."

McCullough: "I think we've figured it out...."

Bennett: "No, just don't say anymore."

Bornmann e-mails 'out of this world'

The secret witness issue wasn't the only new ground broken in the hour-long session.

In court, McCullough told also Bennett that e-mails from key Crown witness Bornmann, which have recently been disclosed to the defence, are highly relevant and should have been previously provided.

"The Bornmann e-mails are out of this world. There are thousands of them," McCullough said. "How these materials were not disclosed before June 4, 2007 will have to be dealt with -- I'm trying to be constructive here."

"Dates, times, lobbying connections, what high officials are telling them," McCullough continued.

'Premier's office inner circle'

Michael Bolton told the court the Bornmann e-mails were highly relevant to their defence, which in part argues that Basi and Virk, both former provincial government ministerial assistants, were merely following the orders of higher ups in government.

In the Basi-Virk case police allege Bornmann bribed Basi and Virk to obtain confidential government documents related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003. Basi and Virk face breach of trust and fraud charges, while Aneal Basi, Dave's cousin and a former government communications officer, faces money laundering charges alleged related to the payment of bribes.
"The e-mails pertain in particular to the conduits of information between the premier's office inner circle and the Ministries of Finance and Transportation and the Pilothouse lobbyists," Bolton said. "Passing information to key members of the premier's inner circle. This is very critical stuff and we don't know how much more of it there is."

'Confidential informer'?

But it was the issue of excluding even defence lawyers from an in-camera hearing that drew the most attention in court.

The "Paragraph 46" that Special Prosecutor Berardino referred Justice Bennett to was almost certainly from Named Person v. Vancouver Sun. That paragraph and the ones immediately before and after, read as follows:

D. The Procedure to Be Followed

45 The interface between the informer privilege rule and the open court principle in the context of a hearing where a party claims to be a confidential police informant must at the same time allow for the protection of the identity of the informer from any possibility of disclosure and the maintenance of public access to the courtroom to the greatest extent possible.

In order to best illustrate how this can be achieved, I will in what follows set out a procedure to be followed in a case such as the one before the Court, where an individual who is in the midst of criminal or quasi-criminal proceedings for some reason discloses to the court his or her status as a confidential informer.

46 In such a proceeding, the parties before the judge will be the individual and the Attorney General of Canada (or the Crown). If the individual wishes to make a claim that he or she is a confidential informer, he or she should ask the judge to adjourn the proceedings immediately and continue in camera.

The proceedings will proceed in camera, with only the individual and the Attorney General present, in order to determine if sufficient evidence exists to determine that the person is a confidential informer and therefore able to claim informer privilege.

47 While the judge is determining whether the privilege applies, all caution must be taken on the assumption that it does apply. This means that under no circumstances should any third party be admitted to the proceedings, and even the claim of informer privilege must not be disclosed. The only parties admitted in this part of the proceeding are the person who seeks the protection of the privilege and the Attorney General. It is the responsibility of the judge at this stage to demand from the parties some evidence which satisfies the judge, on balance, that the person is a confidential informer.

Once it has been established on the evidence that the person is a confidential informer, the privilege applies. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this last point. The judge has no discretion not to apply the privilege: Bisaillon v. Keable, at p. 93. If the person is an informer, the privilege applies fully.

That leaves some obvious questions -- is there a "confidential informer" who supplied police with evidence of wrong doing? And who is that person? Are they involved in other criminal activities, as the Air India informant was?

And it should also be noted that there appear to be two separate applications for in-camera witnesses, with previous mention of applications coming at the last pre-trial hearing, Nov. 16.

There was no mention of excluding defence counsel at that time and Justice Bennett clearly appears to say that there are different applications to be heard.

Pre-trial calendar

The pre-trial hearing also dealt at length with ongoing disclosure of evidence problems that have delayed the trial several times.

Bennett ended the court session by outlining the upcoming schedule of pre-trial hearings.

Starting Dec. 3 the in-camera application will be heard after, presumably, dealing with the issue of exclusion of defence counsel, media and the public. Bennett is expected to hear media arguments against banning reporting and attending the hearing.

Starting Dec. 10 there will be hearings on the issue of provincial government documents where solicitor-client privilege is being claimed.

Starting Dec. 17, depending on the earlier hearings, there may be meetings between the Special Prosecutor and the defence to resolve other disclosure issues.

And starting Jan. 7, 2008 the court will hear arguments on "vets" of the BC Rail and federal Department of Justice documents -- that is, what information should or should not be disclosed to the defence and its relevance to the case.

Of course, one other important date should be mentioned -- on Dec. 28 this case celebrates its 4th birthday.

On Dec. 28, 2003 the B.C. Legislature was raided by police in an unprecedented action that has yet to result in a trial.

Related Tyee stories:

Railgate: Judge Blows Stack 25,000 new pages of evidence; defence pursues dismissal.

Basi, Virk 'Hung Out to Dry': Lawyer But Crown says aides acted on their own.

Spiderman in a Web of Intrigue The Basi-Virk-BC Rail probe may yield BC's biggest scandal yet. If so, meet the Crown's mysterious star witness: 'Spiderman' Erik Bornman.

What is the B.C. legislature raid case?

Also known as "Basi-Virk," it stems from an unprecedented search of the B.C. legislature on Dec. 28, 2003, that police at the time ominously linked to drug dealing, organized crime and corruption said to extend to the highest levels of government.

Subsequently it became clear the search was in fact connected to the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail by BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell.

Two former ministerial aides -- David Basi and Bob Virk -- now face charges of breach of trust and fraud for allegedly passing confidential government documents on to lobbyists representing OmniTRAX, one of the corporations that bid for B.C. Rail. Aneal Basi, a former government communications aide and cousin to David Basi, faces money laundering charges.

The case has exposed the extensive political connections between the B.C. and federal Liberal parties, provincial lobbyists, the leadership campaign of former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin and even the RCMP.

The B.C. legislature raid case is currently in the pre-trial defence application stage at B.C. Supreme Court. The trial itself is expected to last six months or more and call dozens of witnesses, including powerful former B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers, political staff, lobbyists and many others.

-- Bill Tieleman