British Columbia

BC Rail trial deal irks NDP

The Opposition New Democrats have accused the B.C. Liberals of protecting political interests by buying the silence of the two admitted BC Rail conspirators.
B.C. NDP Leader Carole James says she suspects a non-disclosure agreement was signed by the BC Rail trial conspirators. ((CBC))
The Opposition New Democrats have accused the B.C. Liberals of protecting political interests and buying the silence of the two admitted BC Rail conspirators with a $6-million deal, a claim Premier Gordon Campbell denies.

Dave Basi and Bobby Virk pleaded guilty at the political corruption trial earlier this week.

The men admitted to passing along confidential information to one of the bidders around the sale of BC Rail in a $1-billion privatization.

The former ministerial aides in the finance and transportation ministries received cash and tickets and flights to an NFL football game in exchange.

NDP Leader Carole James has called on the province to reveal all details of any arrangement struck, saying taxpayer money was used to keep the pair quiet.

The government revealed after the guilty pleas it paid $6 million in legal fees for the two men, after the Legal Services branch decided Basi and Virk had nothing left to give.

Premier denies knowledge

Campbell washed his hands of any involvement in the prosecution of two "criminals," saying Wednesday his party had no impact on the matter.

"I had absolutely no knowledge of, nothing to do with, was not given any information about this prior to when you got it," he told reporters. "I think that's exactly as it should be ... that this would be totally independent."

James said the deal raises more questions than it answers.

"To average British Columbians, it strikes as a reprehensible deal and a brazen assault on public trust," James said in a news release.

She asked if a gag deal was made to avoid political embarrassment.

Dave Basi has been released from a deal that prevents him talking about the payment of his legal fees, the B.C. government says. ((CBC))
"Was a non-disclosure agreement signed in order to buy silence from the accused and now convicted criminals in the BC Rail corruption trial? Who in government made the offer and what role did it play in arriving at the plea deal?"

Government officials have yet to reveal the cost of funding the special prosecutor on the case.

Campbell distanced himself further from James' questions, suggesting instead the punishment for the men could have been harsher.

"I may have personal opinions about that, but we ask the courts to make those decisions on behalf of all of us in society. That's exactly what has taken place here and that's how it should be."

Ability to pay questioned

With their unexpected pleas, Basi and Virk brought the protracted trial in B.C. Supreme Court to a halt on Monday. They were given two years of house arrest.

David Loukidelis, B.C.'s deputy attorney general, released a statement Wednesday afternoon "to clarify" the circumstances leading up to the decision to release Basi and Virk from repaying their legal costs.

Loukidelis said it came to the attention of the Legal Services branch on Oct. 5 that the special prosecutor had proposed resolution of the prosecutions through guilty pleas.

Loukidelis said discussions then took place between Legal Services and counsel for Basi and Virk, with respect to the ability of the two men to repay their legal costs.

The matter was then referred to Loukidelis and the deputy minister of finance.

"A major consideration was the relatively small amounts that might be recovered from Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk compared to the millions of additional dollars it would cost the government to continue to fund defence, prosecution and court-related costs through to the completion of the trial, and to fund any appeals, with no guarantee of convictions," Loukidelis said in the statement.

Loukidelis said he and the deputy finance minister then decided to release Basi and Virk from repayment and communicated that decision to the attorney general on Oct. 8.

"No one outside the Legal Services branch, myself and the deputy minister of finance had any knowledge of this or involvement," he said.

"For clarity, neither the special prosecutor nor the attorney general had any knowledge of the matter or involvement in this."

Loukidelis said a letter was sent to counsel for Basi and Virk on Wednesday releasing them from a condition not to publicly discuss the financial matters of the deal.