A man acquitted in the Air India terrorist bombing trial won't be getting back $9.2 million in legal fees after a B.C. judge rejected his claims for compensation.
Ripudaman Singh Malik said the length and complexity of the trial, the number of lawyers he had to hire and weak evidence from a Crown witness warranted a judicial review of his case.
He claimed the Crown knew, or ought to have known, that a central witness against him was not credible and that perhaps due to severe public pressure, prosecutors turned a blind eye to the obvious frailties of the woman's evidence.
Malik's lawyer, Bruce McLeod, argued before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson in May that the case fell markedly short of the criminal standard.
But Josephson, who presided at the Air India trial in 2003 and 2004, disagreed with Malik's claims.
'The acquittal of the applicant was just that, it was not a declaration of innocence.' —B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson
"There is no suggestion of wilful misconduct on the part of the Crown," he wrote in a ruling issued Thursday.
Malik and his co-accused, Ajaib Singh Bagri, were acquitted in 2005 of mass murder and conspiracy charges related to a pair of 1985 Air India bombings that killed 331 people, mostly from the Toronto and Vancouver areas.
"While this court found at the conclusion of the trial that the Crown had fallen markedly short of the burden of proof required, I find that the applicant has also fallen markedly short of the burden required of him in this application," Josephson said.
"The acquittal of the applicant was just that, it was not a declaration of innocence."
Malik also said he spent four years in custody before being found not guilty and that the Crown conceded there was unacceptable negligence in the destruction of surveillance tapes by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Costs within defendant's means
The erasure of the tapes was inadvertent and there is no evidence that it prejudiced the defence, Josephson said. While defence costs were very high, they weren't beyond the millionaire businessman's means, Josephson said, noting that Malik's wife, Raminder Malik, told a bail hearing in 2000 that the couple had $11 million in assets.
However, Malik then made a court application saying he had no money to fund his legal defence, although a judge ruled that he, his wife, and their children colluded in hiding the family's enmeshed assets.
Malik received millions of dollars in government money for his defence which he agreed to eventually pay back. However, he later claimed he made the agreement under duress and launched a court battle against repaying the legal fees.
After repeatedly failing to file the necessary documents, he repaid $6.3 million in February.
That was only after the Supreme Court of Canada decided in April 2011 to grant the B.C. government access to evidence that was seized in a bid to prove Malik can afford to pay his multimillion-dollar legal bill.
The Crown has maintained the plot to bomb government-owned Air India planes was hatched by B.C.-based Sikhs seeking revenge against the Indian government after the army was ordered to storm the Golden Temple a year earlier.
It's believed a suitcase bomb was loaded onto a plane at Vancouver International Airport and then transferred in Toronto to Air India Flight 182, which exploded off the coast of Ireland, killing 329 passengers and crew.
About an hour later, on June 25, 1985, a bomb destined for another Air India plane exploded prematurely at Tokyo's Narita Airport, killing two baggage handlers.
Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only man convicted in the bombings, testified for the Crown at Malik and Bagri's trial.
He was convicted of perjury, and an appeal of that ruling is pending.