British Columbia

Basi-Virk defence costs secrecy challenged

B.C.'s auditor general is going to the province's Supreme Court to get information about defence costs related to the Basi Virk corruption trial.
Bob Virk, left, and David Basi switched their pleas to guilty in the midst of the trial in October 2010. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

B.C.'s auditor general is going to the province's Supreme Court to get information about defence costs related to the Basi Virk corruption trial.

John Doyle filed a petition Tuesday seeking an order for access to records and information, arguing that the information is essential to an audit due at the end of June.

Former ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk pleaded guilty in October 2010 to breach of trust and receiving benefits in connection with the 2003 sale of BC Rail.

Basi and Virk pleaded not guilty when the trial opened, about eight years after their offences were committed. Their change of plea came about six months after the proceedings began.

The province agreed to cover the pair's legal costs, estimated at $6 million.

Lawyer-client privilege

Lawyer-client privilege has so far blocked attempts to gain access to the records.

"It's a sad state of affairs when the citizens' money can be spent and they can't find out how and why and under what circumstances," B.C. NDP attorney general critic Leonard Krog told CBC News.

"Hopefully, the report of the auditor general will shed some light on what is still a very smelly part of British Columbia's political history, and this particular government's history."

The circumstances surrounding the government's deal with Basi and Virk are, "disconcerting at the best and outrageous at the worst," said Krog. "I think the taxpayers and citizens want an answer."

The cost of the trial in total is believed to be about $18 million, but cannot be determined precisely without the defence cost details.

The successful bidder in the sale of BC rail was CN Rail., which paid $1 billion.

The police investigation into the bidding process was revealed when police raided offices at the B.C. legislature in December 2003 and carted out dozens of boxes of potential evidence.

With files from the CBC's Jason Proctor