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The BC Legislature Raids resulted from search warrants executed on the Legislature of British Columbia, Canada, in 2003 and has become a collective term for the associated criminal proceedings and ensuant controversies. Justice Elizabeth Bennett began hearings in BC Supreme in April 2007. The claims made in disclosure hearings sparked speculation as political observers and online commentators attempted to determine why these searches took place. Comments made on the case by BC Attorney-General Wally Oppal and questions as to the legality of warrants obtained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have raised concerns of a mistrial which might have sealed evidence in the case. As proceedings developed, the proceedings have brought to light questions concerning the propriety of the sale of BC Rail to CN Rail and the conduct of various government officials and consultants as well as the role of various members of the government, including Premier Gordon Campbell and his advisers. The preliminary hearings into eventual criminal court proceedings were kept sealed from the public until opened up in the public's interest, and by requests from defence council, in the fall of 2008 by the presiding justice, Elizabeth Bennett, who struck down the court ban in the grounds of the importance of an open court in regard to the importance of the case to the public interest, contrary to the objections of the government-appointed Special Prosecutor. Successive revelations of further documents revealed a complex web of information relating to various parties which has still not been fully analyzed and promoted much speculation as to still-further ramifications of the raids. The Premier and other cabinet officials, including Attorney-General Wally Oppal, have repeatedly refused comment on the grounds that the matter is before the courts.

Contents

Drug sting "Everywhichway" leads to government aides

According to the RCMP, the Raids arose from information uncovered during a drug sting [1][2]. In 2003, the RCMP were monitoring Dave Basi's conversations on his home, government, and cellular phones, as well as his e-mails. At that time the police were focused on breaking up a marijuana and cocaine smuggling ring between British Columbia and Ontario run by his cousin Jasmohan Singh Bains.[3]

During the police investigation of Basi's activities investigators became interested in Basi's dealings as Ministerial Assistant to then Finance Minister Gary Farrell-Collins[4]. A second investigation was launched that had no connection to drug related activities but rather to the sale of benefits in regard to the tendering process for the sale of BC Rail..

On December 28, 2003, a series of search warrants was executed at various locations throughout the Lower Mainland and in Victoria. There were four separate applications by the RCMP in 2004 to obtain warrants, and according to the CBC these were executed at nine separate premises including the Parliament Buildings in Victoria. As a result, allegations of bribery were made (including money and the offer of potential employment in return for confidential government information).

The sale of BC Rail involved a tax indemnity. If CN is not refunded $415 million from the Federal Government, the Province will return this amount. Reduces the sale price of BC Rail from $1.05 billion to under $500 million.[1] The BC Rail tax indemnity was taken off the Public Accounts in January 2005, before the May 2005 election, when it was reclasified a contingent liability.

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BC Rail link

On April 3, 2006, a Justice of the British Columbia Supreme Court ordered the further release of various documents used by police to obtain the search warrants served on individuals linked to the Raids.

Further charges were laid against two Victoria area developers.

Agricultural Land Commission connection

Basi has also been charged for accepting $50,000 in connection with the Agricultural Land Commission.

Liberal "insiders"

Several of the people cited by online commentators or certain reporters in the story surrounding the raid are politically active people who had come into contact with Basi. Examples include provincial ministers, staff or officials in the Liberal Party of Canada or the Paul Martin leadership campaign.

Search warrants were executed on the home of Bruce Clark, brother of Christy Clark, in December 2003.

The RCMP made it very clear that no elected officials were implicated in their investigation, and also provided a letter to Marissen (Paul Martin's BC Campaign Chair) confirming that he was also not implicated in any way and that they came to his house without a search warrant to seek his help because they thought he might be the "innocent recipient" of emails related to Virk's and Basi's resumes, because it was alleged that they were seeking job recommendations for federal political employment in Ottawa. Basi was an active volunteer for the Paul Martin campaign in British Columbia, who recruited many members of the Indo-Canadian community to the Liberal Party to vote in the leadership process. This has led to rampant speculation and innuendo as government critics attempt to link Basi's activities to federal and provincial politicians and operatives, and spread "guilt by association". Part of this speculation is fuelled by comments made to the media at the time of the raids by the officer in charge, that organized crime and corruption were present in "the highest levels of the government".

Charges laid

In December 2004 three men were charged in connection with this investigation and in 2006 two more men were charged.

Those charged include:

  • David Basi
  • Robert Virk
  • Aneal Basi
  • Tony Young
  • James Duncan

Legality of warrants

Complications in the case included controversy as to whether the police may have misled a judge in the course of obtaining warrants for the investigation which involved eavesdropping on conversations between the Premier and the Finance Minister. Twice the warrants were rejected on grounds of privilege, with the third warrant issued without naming the premises, which were the Legislature Buildings.

Developments in 2009

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act

On February 25, 2009, Judge Elizabeth Bennett released 8000 pages of documents relating to the legislature raids to the New Democrat Official Opposition.[5]

The documents produced attention immediately, first to what appeared to be B.C. Liberal Party fundraising activities originating from the Finance Minister's office,[6][7][8] then to the B.C. Liberal government's strategy for dominating the media discourse and neutralizing question period.[9][10][11][12]

On March 6, 2009, after raising these two stories the B.C. New Democrat caucus released the documents to the public through their website.[13][14]

The Kinsella Connection

Shortly after the B.C. New Democrat Caucus won access to the 8000 pages of B.C. rail documents, their researchers uncovered a link between long-time B.C. Liberal Party insider Patrick Kinsella [15] and B.C. Rail while looking through public documents available at the legislative library. The documents showed that between 2002 and 2004, B.C. Rail paid $297,000 to the group of companies owned by Kinsella.[16]

The discovered documents were first aired in question period on Tuesday, March 10, 2009. When questioned by New Democrat justice critic, Leonard Krog, about what Kinsella was paid by B.C. Rail to do, the Attorney General, Wally Oppal, claimed that "the issue relating to B.C. Rail is before the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and we will not comment on the matter." [17]

Kinsella's company, the Progressive Group, issued a statement claiming that Kinsella "was engaged by BC Rail to assist in understanding and interpreting the Core Review Process as to its potential impact on the Corporation," while on B.C. Rail's payroll.[18]

Questioned outside of the legislature Oppal said that he had no idea if Kinsella's activities were connected to the B.C. Rail trial.[19] Soon after, a defence lawyer involved in the trial alleged that Kinsella was working for both CN Rail and BC Rail in the time before the $1-billion sale of BC Rail to CN was finalized.[20]

Kinsella wrote the B.C. Liberal party election platform for the 2003 and 2005 elections.[21] Kinsella's involvement in the political corruption trial [22] has led some observers to draw a link between the B.C. rail scandal [23] and Gordon Campbell.[24][25][26]

According to an email cited by defense lawyer Kevin McCullough, Kinsella may have interceded with Premier Gordon Campbell's chief of staff to keep the sale of B.C. rail to C.N. from "going off the tracks." [27]

Kinsella is alleged to have been involved in entering the $505 million dollar BC Rail tax indemnity (refund) on the books at 255 million. The sale of BC Rail included a $505 million BC Rail tax indemnity on top of $750 million cash and $250 million in direct tax credits. Under the terms of the indeminty, If CN is not refunded the amount of the indemnity from the Federal Government, the Province will return this amount. This reduces the sale price of BC Rail from $1.05 billion to around $500 million. The BC Rail tax indemnity was taken off the Public Accounts in January 2005, before the May 2005 election, when it was reclasified a contingent liability. The BC Rail sale Annual Report was defective and did not cite the indemnity, and recorded these tax credits at zero bookvalue.[28]

References

  1. ^ CanWest News Service, "Drug link alleged in Basi case," Times Colonist, May 08, 2007, retrieved from here on March 30 2009
  2. ^ Neal Hall and Jim Beatty, "B.C.'s Hells Angels," Vancouver Sun, Page A01, September 11, 2004
  3. ^ Drug dealer linked to legislature raid imprisoned: RCMP oddly silent about key victory against cocaine ring, Ian Mulgrew Vancouver Sun Canada February 17, 2008, retrieved here on March 30, 2009
  4. ^ Ian Bailey, "Ex-minister wants spy tape released," The Province, A10, February 28, 2007
  5. ^ Mark Hume, "Provincial NDP obtain files related to sale of BC Rail," Globe and Mail, February 25, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  6. ^ Michael Smyth, "NDP stymied in attempt to get Stonewally to open up," The Province, March 3, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  7. ^ a digital copy of the documents released by Judge Bennett which appears to show partisan fundraising being conducted from the Finance Minister's office
  8. ^ Andrew MacLeod, "Liberals used government offices for fundraising work," The Tyee, Hook Blog, March 2, 2009 retrieved here on March 29, 2009
  9. ^ Michael Smyth, "Priceless view that cost us lots," The Province, March 5, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  10. ^ Bill Tieleman, "Document urges BC Liberal aides to avoid answers, spin the media," The Tyee, Hook Blog, March 2, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  11. ^ Charlie Smith, "Premier Gordon Campbell's office: 'It's Question Period, not Answer Period,'" The Straight, March 7, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  12. ^ a digital copy of the document entitled 'House Review: A Day In The Life' as released by Judge Elizabeth Bennett
  13. ^ Crawford Killian, "NDP posts documents from BC Rail trial," The Tyee, Hook Blog, March 6, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  14. ^ the online archive of B.C. Rail Documents released to the New Democrat Caucus
  15. ^ Andrew MacLeod, "Pat Kinsella's Bumpy Career," The Tyee, June 16, 2008, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  16. ^ Vaughn Palmer, "Stonewally to the fore as NDP pounds Kinsella connection," Vancouver Sun, March 12, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  17. ^ Hansard, Tuesday, March 10, 2009, Afternoon, Vol. 39, No. 11, oral question period, ROLE OF PATRICK KINSELLA IN B.C. RAIL SALE, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  18. ^ Jonathan Fowlie and Neal Hall, "Judge raises Kinsella lobbying in Basi-Virk case," Vancouver Sun, March 13, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  19. ^ Lindsay Kines, "B.C. Liberals silent on payments to party official," Times Colonist, March 12, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  20. ^ Neal Hall and Johnathan Fowlie, "Kinsella worked for both sides, lawyer says," Vancouver Sun, March 27, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  21. ^ Jonathan Fowlie, "A quiet titan finds an uncomfortable limelight," Vancouver Sun, March 16, 2009, retrieved from here on April 2, 2009
  22. ^ Mark Hume and Justine Hunter, "Campbell's ally in spotlight at corruption trial," March 27, 2009, retrieved from here on April 2, 2009
  23. ^ Gary Mason, "Whiff of scandal envelops sale of BC Rail," Globe and Mail, March 26, retrieved from here on April 2, 2009
  24. ^ Gary Mason, Globe and Mail, Premier faces questions, and voters need answers, about sale of BC Rail, Page A10, March 26, 2009
  25. ^ Gary Mason, "As election looms, new revelations about BC Rail stir up waters," Globe and Mail, March 28, 2009, retrieved from here on April 2
  26. ^ Vaughn Palmer, "Campbell's BC Rail deal just can't shake whiff of scandal," Vancouver Sun, March 14, 2009, retrieved from here on April 2, 2009 relevant quote "Campbell, Kinsella in BC Rail tryst".
  27. ^ Keith Fraser, "Liberal insider accused of double-dealing 'sham'," Page A12, The Province, March 27, 2009
  28. ^ A BC Rail time bomb is still ticking for B.C. taxpayers: Campbell Liberals left us on the hook for half a billion, Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun, April 21, 2009

External links

National news coverage

The players and government background information

Blog/internet sites


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