The two men at the centre of BC Rail corruption case — Dave Basi and Bob Virk — pleaded guilty Monday just as their trial was about to resume in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
In a statement read in court, the two former ministerial aides in Premier Gordon Campbell's Liberal government changed their pleas on four charges.
The two admitted providing insider information to interested parties in the 2003 sale of BC Rail and receiving benefits for the information, including money and a trip to an NFL game in Colorado.
But the two men did not plead guilty to fraud, and all references to fraud were deleted from the charges to which they pleaded guilty.
The men were then sentenced to two years less a day, to be served as house arrest. Basi was also fined $75,600, equal to the amount he admitted he was paid in exchange for the information.
Lesser charges against a third man at the trial, Aneal Basi, who was accused of money laundering in the case, were stayed, effectively ending the trial. He is a cousin of Dave Basi.
Glad trial is over
Outside the courthouse, Bob Virk told reporters he's glad the seven-year investigation is over.
"It's just been tough on our families, and it's time to move on," Virk said.
"I've had two children born into this, and I'm going to go home today and play with my kids."
When asked by reporters about his guilty plea, Virk responded: "It's over. I'm moving on. That's all I have to say. I've got to move on."
Dave Basi said he was concerned the trial would drag on for years.
"I've got young children," he said. "My daughter was eight years old when this started. My son was three. My daughter is now 15. My son is now 10. My family does not deserve to go through this, whenever this is going to end.
"It's over, and I'm going to go home now and I'm going to hug my family."
NDP calls for public inquiry
In Victoria, NDP leader Carole James said the government must now call a full public inquiry since the case is no longer before the courts.
NDP MLA Leonard Krog, who is the critic for the attorney general, said without a public inquiry, the public may never hear from several high-profile witnesses whose testimony has been awaited for years.
Those witnesses include former finance minister Gary Collins, former transportation minister Judith Reid and a mystery witness whose identity the Crown was so determined to protect it went to the Supreme Court of Canada seeking a ruling on the issue.
"I think the clear winners today are the BC Liberals, who have avoided months and months of more revelations coming out week after week during the course of the trial," he said.
Krog said he had followed this case for years but didn't see the guilty plea coming.
"It is a shocking turn of events," said Krog after hearing the news on Monday.
Raid on legislature led to charges
The charges were filed in 2004 following an unprecedented search warrant served at the provincial legislature in December 2003 that saw police carting away dozens of boxes of evidence.
The trial began in May, 2010 after years of procedural delays. Dave Basi and Virk were accused of fraud and breach of trust for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for inside government information about the $1-billion sale of BC Rail.
The Crown argued they had leaked confidential government information to a lobbyist who worked for Denver-based OmniTrax, one of three companies vying for BC Rail, which was sold to CN Rail in November 2003.