Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Stonewalling" alleged by defence in Supreme Court and NDP Opposition in Legislature in Basi-Virk case


That's what defence lawyer Kevin McCullough alleged Tuesday in BC Supreme Court that Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino has been doing in response to repeated requests for details of a deal lobbyist Erik Bornmann cut for immunity from prosecution for testifying against three ex-government aides.

Across the water in Victoria, the New Democrat opposition were saying Premier Gordon Campbell was "stonewalling" too - refusing to answer their repeated question about earlier defence allegations that Campbell's top staff had been involved in a "dirty tricks" operation involving paid media manipulation and fake protestors.

Facing repeated questions from both the NDP in the Legislature's Question Period and the media outside, Campbell dodged and dodged some more.

“I’m not going to talk about any issues that arise out of this court case until such a time as the court case is complete…I don’t believe it’s appropriate to talk until this case is complete,” Campbell said, in several similar variations.

But the allegations weren't going away in BC Supreme Court either, where defence lawyers for ex-ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk and ex-government communications aide Aneal Basi attacked the Special Prosecutor's conduct.

"We've been pounding for a year and a half to get details of the Bornmann deal," an exasperated McCullough told Justice Elizabeth Bennett. "The only reasonable inferrence one can draw is that he [Berardino] is stonewalling."

That accusation drew an objection from Janet Winteringham, Berardino's co-counsel.

"I want to raise an objection regarding defence allegations about Mr. Berardino's conduct. That conduct could or would amount to prosecutorial misconduct," she said. Winteringham said she would have more to say about the defence attack when the Crown responds later in the hearing.

Berardino is not in the courtroom and Winteringham said after the hearing that Berardino is away for "a few weeks" without further explanation.

Also today in BC Supreme Court - McCullough gave Justice Elizabeth Bennett notice that the defence would be requesting extensive cabinet and ministerial documents related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail, including files and emails between ministers, possibly including the premier.

And McCullough spent most of the day criticizing Special Prosecutor and RCMP conduct in allowing key Crown witnesses Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran to continue their lucrative lobbying business after allegedly admitting to providing bribes to Basi and Virk for information related to the BC Rail deal.

McCullough also criticized the Special Prosecutor and RCMP for allowing Bornmann to article for his law degree in Toronto at McCarthy Tetrault. A letter from Basi's lawyer Michael Bornmann was cited in which Bolton said a story I had written in 24 hours newspaper August 1, 2006 was the first evidence that Bornmann was articling student.

In that letter Bolton wrote: "We ask that the police takes steps forthwith," noting that Bornmann's alleged bribery should come to the attention of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

The hearing now adjourns for two days, resuming on Friday April 27.

See 24 hours for my story on the hearing in Wednesday's edition.

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