Thursday, December 19, 2013

BASI-VIRK: Auditor General report saying no political interference in $6 million indemnification to the guilty is no surprise at all

Nothing to see here, move along, move along....Basi-Virk/BC Railgate/BC Legislature Raid case indemnification of the guilty for $6 million had "no political interference" - why would it?
Bill Tieleman meets David Basi for the first time in April 2010 outside BC Supreme Court
"Secrecy feeds distrust and dishonesty. Openness builds trust and integrity." 

Gordon Campbell, 1998

Perhaps the biggest anti-climax we've seen in any BC political scandal came Wednesday when BC Auditor General Russ Jones arrived at the same conclusion I did years ago - no political interference in allowing two ministerial aides who pleaded guilty to breach of trust and fraud charges to collect $6.4 million in legal fees nonetheless.

David Basi and Bob Virk had little choice in pleading guilty after five years before the courts and facing massive legal bills for their excellent defence team led by Michael Bolton and Kevin McCullough - as I have documented extensively on this blog, in 24 Hours Vancouver and The Tyee after the surprise ending to their trial after just two witnesses testified of an expected 40 or more.

You can read my view of the stunning end of this political scandal when Basi and Virk were hung out to dry and the background to my six years of coverage that earned me a serious break in and trashing of my office back in December 2007 for writing on things that others wanted left unsaid - and many fans and praise too, I must add.

Bill Tieleman sorts through the wreakage of his office after December 7, 2007
 break-in by persons unknown to this date
But don't be surprised that I'm not in the least shocked by Jones' determining that two senior deputy ministers of the BC Liberal government appointed by then-Premier Gordon Campbell didn't consult their political masters before deciding to pay Basi and Virk's enormous legal bills despite their admitting guilt.

Why?  What did you expect?  

With high profile witnesses about to testify, possibly from former BC Liberal Finance Minister Gary Collins - who Basi worked for - to ex-BC Liberal Transportation Minister Judith Reid - to BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark's brother Bruce Clark, to Campbell and Christy Clark themselves, it would have been a political three-ring circus for months.

Basi and Virk's veteran criminal law team were set to lay out their defence - that Basi and Virk were pawns in an alleged massive conspiracy they had already outlined in BC Supreme Court: to sell BC Rail for $1 billion to CN Rail and to compensate the only remaining and losing bidder OmniTRAX for staying in a contest that CP Rail and others called "tainted" with other valuable contracts.

Police raids on the homes of Bruce Clark and Pilothouse lobbyist Erik Bornmann - who admitted to police to bribing Basi and Virk for confidential BC Rail information when he turned Crown witness - found plenty of evidence, but only Basi and Virk were ever charged.

That despite key documents being found by police at Bruce Clark's home - information outlined in the jointly agreed Crown prosecution and defence lawyers mutually agreed "Statement of Facts" entered in the court when the case ended.

"statement of facts" agreed to by both Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino and defence lawyers says police found confidential government information on a second BC Rail privatization of its Roberts Bank spur line in Clark's home and that it came from Basi and Virk. 

The line was estimated to be worth about $70 million.

Clark was a lobbyist for the Washington Marine Group at the time and the Roberts Bank bidding was cancelled after police informed then-transportation minister Kevin Falcon that the process was tainted. 

Move along, move along - nothing to see here.
But on the $6.4 million legal fees being paid, Auditor General Jones argues:  

"In the case of Mr. Basi's and Mr. Virk's indemnities, senior public servants deliberately didn't consult with ministers or the premier prior to making these indemnity decisions because they did not risk compromising the administration with political influence.  Overall, we found that government's indemnity practice wasn't perfect, but it was principled."
Uh-huh.  Principled.
More precisely, in a news release the independent Auditor General states that: 

“The decision to amend Mr. Basi’s and Mr. Virk’s indemnities was made by public servants, separate from the trial. It was made to avoid the future cost of a lengthy trial.
And God knows we wouldn't want taxpayers to suffer through a lengthy trial, testimony by witnesses at the highest level of the BC Liberal government, including potentially Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark themselves. What purpose would that serve?
Which public servants?  Then-deputy attorney general David Loukedelis and then-deputy finance minister Graham Whitmarsh - now long gone from government after the fall of Campbell.
I truly do not doubt that they did not consult BC Liberal politicians in coming to the decision to do the deal to end the trial, save $2 million or more taxpayer dollars and pay Basi and Virk's legal bills of $6.4 million in return.

Why would they?  

It would be completely inappropriate, highly dangerous to all involved and totally unnecessary if there were any political interference.

I impute no motives, no political considerations and no malice to either Loukedelis or Whitmarsh, who understood their role completely as senior deputy ministers appointed by Gordon Campbell through Orders In Council.

The trial suddenly ended, the parade of BC Liberal politicians set to testify was cancelled, Basi and Virk didn't go to jail, those who bribed them didn't take to the stand or face charges, and taxpayers saved $2 million on a massive $1 billion privatization of a key Crown asset owned by the people.

It simply doesn't get better than this.

After nearly a decade of covering this case starting on December 28, 2003 - when police raided the BC Legislature - I am weary of it, but have made an effort to respond to the Auditor General's report.

The whole truth may yet out - but I seriously doubt it. 

And you can still join my Basi-Virk Public Inquiry page on Facebook if you like, but don't hold your breath - the political powers that be and the NDP failure to win the 2013 election have all but ended the possibility of an independent judicial inquiry into one of BC's biggest political scandals.

My old friend BC Mary, sadly departed from this earth in 2012, would be aghast to see that despite all her enormous work documenting the BC Legislature Raids - as her blog was called - and everything else that has happened, we still don't know the truth of what happened.

So now move along, move along - truly, there is nothing to see here - or even better, forget what you have seen, it can only be too disturbing to remember.



DPL said...

Spending 6 million to save two million and keeping all those BC Liberals from ending up in court sure made for some happy campers. A lot of people will remember the mess but since the rest of the folks voted Liberal, it is all hidden under the rug. Open and transparent? Oh sure. My gosh BC politics is a three ringed circus

ron wilton said...

Sometimes some people can not see the forest for the trees.

Unless this piece is seething sarcasm, you have been blinded by the light.

The lid was put put on this case from the highest levels as proven by the peculiar judge swapping gambit not at all unlike the similar swap in the Ernst vs. Encana debacle.

Of course there will always be those that will not acknowledge the truth long after the train has left the station.

scotty on denman said...

Can't blame you for doubting the outing of the whole unholy truth; maybe get some deathbed confessions, maybe a decade or two down the line. Still, it's small consolation that whoever escaped justice by the corruption of the corruption trial have to risk keeping a ball of their own mud in reserve as erstwhile culprits gradually move beyond the reach of any earthly gaoler and contemplate posterity.

BC's been through some of the most gut-wrenching tumult in its history, starting with Gordon Campbell's seminal election campaign lie that he wouldn't sell BC Rail; the build consisted of cooking the books to falsify its profitability, the fraudulent manipulation of the bidding, the legislature raids by police and the long trial featuring every conceivable avoidance of disclosure, repeatedly, to the point of contempt; critically, cabinet ministers were about to testify when the judge was switched; the only two BC Liberals convicted so far copped a plea in return for their legal bills and their silence---essentially the corruption of a corruption trial. Following a decline during which the leaders of both majority and Opposition were casualties, climax occurred when, after many, including many BC Liberals, presumed an NDP win and a public inquiry into BC Rail, Christy saved the BC Liberals, an anticlimax, as 't were.

It's very like surviving a bear attack: you peer at the trampled ground, hardly believing it happened, squeezing places where there is no feeling, but should be, and feeling pain that can't be seen but feels like it should be; shock temporaarily numbs what eventually will become permanent pain. You're alive but you'll never be quite the same---and the pain can only be endured. In the same way BC Rail acculturated dishonesty in the BC Liberal government and now, post-Campbell, it licenses preposterous, bombastic, chuffed, smirking and blatant mendacities like LNG, the bogus Jobs Plan, etc. We survived but, oh, are we ever beat up; we might never fully recover.

The acculturation of BC Liberal dishonesty germinated with the sale of BC Rail. The HST fiasco, misinterpreted as the critical event in Campbell's demise, was merely that culture expressed and, it turned out, the last straw---but BC Rail is the real nucleus of BC Liberal perfidy; cut short as it was, it isn't often recognized as central to the BC Liberal narrative but it is from this point they discovered lying is an effective policy, as well as campaign tool. Even when they get busted it works and they think they can keep getting away with it. Now all we see is un-debated policy announcement by infomercial instead of parliament, featuring the prancing majorette grinning like a shit-eating hound.

This acculturation has just about completely stymied the NDP, who seem to think alls they gotta do is look angelic set beside such a pack of liars. Yet time and again they've lost by this non-strategy and repeatedly blown opportunities to purge their infuriating pusillanimity. When voters themselves are completely flummoxed by NDP decided lack of pugnacity, it means they can't really know the party, effectively giving ammo to the enemy to speculatively and plausibly smear with impunity---and people prefer the devil they do know, lies and all. BC Rail is the precedent that licensed the BC Liberals' superficial transformation from Campbellism to baton-twirling and the de facto legitimization of perfidy. The perennially knock-kneed NDP keep showing up to the knife fight in the alley with boxing gloves, mouth guard and rule book.

It would be sad if BC Rail was forgotten but, considering its importance in moulding our political environment, not to mention all the things that will be irrecoverably lost to emboldened kleptocrats, I'm not too worried that it will. Christy prances onward but NDP retribution is as yet uncertain. Is this our new political culture? Liars versus wimps?

Anonymous said...

If these two characters were as smart as they are marketed by Bill and others to be, they would have jumped out early in the game, but they got into the power sauce and the taxpayers end up paying the freight.

if Bill's NDP was smart enough to win the May election may be there would have been an inquiry and Bill here would actually have something new to share rather than rehasing news.

Vanstar said...

You know, Bill, you and the Geoff Meggs/Glen Clark wing of the NDP can go on about this for years. It's done. You have unsuccessfully run three elections on it. Bingogate is done, too.

You need to move on.

Anonymous said...

Agree. All this coverage by Bill, Tsakumis and BC Mary hasn't resulted in anything other than people typing into very opiniated blogs.

If anyone figured these contributions would take down the BC Liberals, they are fooling themselves.

Bil covered the trials for the bloggers which was fine, but didn't accomplish much, the overall public just wasn't all that interested - sure the left wing bloggers were, not for the legal content but rather if it would contribute to the downfall of the BC Liberals. Did not happen.

Tsakumis is worse, he's always figured he personally would be able to collapse Christy Clark, (always seems to tell people he has something that will, but nothing happens) but that won't happen. and still on a tear over BC Rail.

C'mon Bill, time to move on. Get into new things.

Write about how Mayor Moonbeam stupidly accepted Rennie's and Peter Walls offer to pay for Stephenson's trip to the 2014 Sochi Games.

This political commentary project of yours is getting close to jumping the shark if it hasn't already.

or write a political commentary column for the NDP's Democrat. At least there you'll reach a wider audience.

Merry Christmas.

Bill Tieleman said...

I find it fascinating that both Vanstar and Anonymous 20:16 both used the identical "move on" phrase in giving me advice. Most appreciated, by the way, but really - why so anxious?

I have moved on actually, and regular readers will know I haven't been writing about the Basi-Virk case for a long time. My view is that it's over and we will likely never know all the nasty details about what really happened.

But Vanstar and Anonymous, truth has an interesting way of coming out despite all efforts to suppress it, whether it's Edward Snowden, Wikileaks or the Pentagon Papers.

I'm not holding my breath on anything so revelatory but I also know that there are still stones unturned that could have serious consequences yet unseen.

And if so, I'm ready to report. Thanks for playing.

Anonymous said...

Well Bill, if you moved on, why the drums and cymbal solo concert?

Face facts, you're not a reporter in the true occupation, just a political commentator.

If you're going to move on, move on to new subjects rather than old news.

e.a.f. said...

suggesting Tieleman move on, no one is watching, get a grip. if everyone moved on and ignored what was wrong, well they did and that is how we got into this mess.

Not all of us are ready to move on and never will be. The "sale" of B.C. Rail will be a story for years to come. it has become part of B.C. history. there is a truth out there and some of us really do want to know. We suspect, but we want to know. We want people to be held accountable. some of us want our railway back.

What el gordo did with B.C. Rail was just another e.g. of a much larger problem in this province. if no one writes about it, the problem will get bigger and we will start making some of those 3rd world dictatorships look good when it comes to corruption and graft.

have a look at what some governments have stolen from their citizens. do we want this for b.c. No I don't. if you do not open the window for some fresh air you will die of the dirty air you breath.

Vanstar said...

Bill, I am not anxious about anything but really, you have to look at reality: the BC Rail case is done, over, finished. It's been over a decade and by 2017 close to two.

Bill, your brand of NDP is spectacularly unsuccessful at winning elections, yet you continue you flog dead horses. If you really want to do your good works, you cannot simply be content to take the moral high ground of opposition: you'll actually have to lead and voters don't seem to want you to lead them back 13 years or so.

Move on, Bill, you are being left behind with Dix and Meggs.

Anonymous said...

And today is the 10th anniversary of the BC Legislature Raids.
Happy Anniversary, Christy.