Monday, January 11, 2010

Will Basi-Virk trial happen soon or not at all - defence drops applications to throw out case


The Special Prosecutor in the Basi-Virk/BC Rail case this morning told two court hearing that he expects the defence to drop all their applications to stay corruption charges against three former BC government aides - will the trial proceed quickly as a result - or not at all?

After a very short hearing with BC Supreme Court Justice Anne MacKenzie - which was scheduled to hear the defence's Charter of Rights application on unreasonable delay for the trial - Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino said outside court that the defence moves will allow a trial date to be set soon.

But defence lawyer Michael Bolton, acting for David Basi, would say little when asked what was going on and if his client and co-accused Bob Virk and Aneal Basi would in fact face trial shortly as a result.

"There's really nothing we can comment on now. Discussions are occurring that will streamline the trial," Bolton said. Bolton refused to comment on speculation of a plea bargain by the accused.

When I attempted to ask Bolton about reports I heard in December that the defence would drop its Charter of Rights and abuse of process applications - which Bolton then called "pure rumour" - defence lawyer Kevin McCullough, representing Virk, quickly interrupted me to pull Bolton away.

"No comment," Bolton replied to me as he exited. McCullough later apologized to me for the intervention, without explanation.

Before that and right after the short BC Rail session Berardino and Bolton went next door for a separate hearing in front of BC Supreme Court Justice Lance Bernard on additional breach of trust charges against David Basi which allege he illegally influenced a decision to remove farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve for a Saanich development in for a payment of $50,000.

Basi and developers Jim Duncan and Tony Young all face charges in the matter.

Berardino told Bernard that: "There are certain developments in the BC Rail case and as a result we appear to be in a position to fix a trial date on February 1 or within a few days of that."

Bernard agreed to postpone the hearing until February 8th at 9:30 a.m. so that all involved would then know the date of the BC Rail trial and the ALR trial would follow that one.

David Basi participated in the brief hearing by phone, with his lawyer Bolton explaining that Basi was home very ill with the flu. Basi said almost nothing except to tell Bernard he understood what was proposed.

Basi has still not retained Bolton as his counsel in the case, the court heard, but Bolton appeared for him with associate Claire Hatcher nonetheless. Bolton said a proposal to cover his legal costs has been made.

The BC Rail case will resume with a disclosure hearing January 19, an update on the case January 25 and then a date to set the trial will likely take place February 1.

NDP MLA Leonard Krog says that he believes a trial will soon take place after today's developments.

"I think this is good news for British Columbians and bad news for the Gordon Campbell government," Krog said in a telephone interview.

"The accused deserve a trial and the people deserve to hear what happened," he said.

Krog was concerned when asked about the possibility of no trial.

"My reaction would be to demand there be a public inquiry forthwith," he said, adding the end of the case would remove any impediments to an inquiry.

Krog has repeatedly called for a public inquiry if the trial does not proceed and posed 70 separate questions in the BC Legislature for the Attorney General to answer back in 2007.

"This is the major corruption scandal in BC history," Krog said today.

I was late arriving at BC Supreme Court for the BC Rail hearing but my colleague Neal Hall of the Vancouver Sun reports that Berardino told MacKenzie he expected the defence would not proceed with its applications.
MacKenzie replied that it would save the court a lot of time, prompting McCullough to say "four to six months".

Is the defence is merely reading the writing on the wall, as I have argued here in earlier postings, realizing that there is little likelihood the Charter application on "unreasonable delay" of the trial could succeed due to a recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision that ruled a complex case requiring over 56 months to complete was not unreasonable.

Dropping a losing pair of applications that would like fail could be simply a reasonable decision to get the trial on and finally end the difficult situation the accused have faced for six long years.



Anonymous said...

Very interesting post Bill. This paragraph caught my attention:

"A plea bargain would present an interesting challenge, as it would mean the accused would get their legal fees to date - likely in the millions - paid by the province while admitting guilt on some charges."

And that makes sense.

Like everyone else, though, I would have liked to have heard the evidence.

Bill Tieleman said...

I have received an interesting message privately indicating a plea bargain is very unlikely. I will update this story as more information becomes available.

BC Mary said...

Wow, this is white-knuckle time, Bill. Thanks for the careful report, but oh, it's hard to take.

Can't help wondering why it took all this time for Basi, Virk, and Basi to get around to thinking of a plea bargain. Even I suggested it months (years?) ago ...

And what's this about "Gee, if we're a little bit guilty the taxpayers of BC will pay our fees because we've struck a plea bargain" ... ?

Or, stated another way, was the fix in all along?

Bill Tieleman said...

I have substantially revised this story from earlier based on a review of the hearings this morning and other information.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update Bill. I have followed your Blog every day. I have a question. What are Basi & Virk doing today ? In other words do they work & where ?

Guy in Victoria

Norm Farrell said...

I assumed a painless plea bargain was in the works but you pose a real alternative. Good job.

Bill Tieleman said...

Hi Guy - I believe they are working in family businesses in the Victoria area, where they live.

Anonymous said...

The Globe has closed comments on this story!

Ron said...

Is it possible the trial will really get underway before the 2010Olympics?

Surely the government will not allow any competition with Gordoccio's photo ops prior to - or during - HIS Games!

Anonymous said...

I do not trust any of them!

Every player in this is dirty, especially the Crown and the Government who have been trying to take a dive on this trial for five years.

In the end the Gordon Campbell/Paul Martin league of BC celeb plutocrats will escape on a technicality.

"WE ONLY CHEAT WHEN WE CAN'T WIN" ... and Gordo and his On-The-Take legal system wants to win.


Anonymous said...

Only in America can a political leader be impeached and removed ..although not punished with jail time.

Here in the Banana Republic of Canada, corruption and criminal activity by political leaders is just par for the course ... business as usual. No accountability. No punishment.

It's a joke .. but it isn't funny.

dc (vancouver)

Anonymous said...

good posts Bill but you and everybody else have have never asked how these three survive since being let go by the govt?how do you play the bills without a job?have they been "looked after" to keep them quiet?how have they managed to pay legal fees and living costs ,most people would be broke by now?there is a lot more to this story than everybody sees...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:02 is right.

Meet up with David these days and he is dressed immaculately, has a big smile on his face, and is most likely surrounded by an entourage.

David is accused of selling access and knowledge. He hasn't lost either of those.

I would suspect that the legal fees to date aren't a problem.