British Columbia

Deceit and corruption at the heart of allegations against 3 VPD officers, court hears

Three Vancouver police officers are accused of deceiving investigators with false statements linked to the probe into disgraced former detective James Fisher, a B.C. courtroom has heard. Two of those officers are also suspected of "corrupt practice."

Constables Adam King, Zach Guy and Silvana Burtini still on duty while under investigation by Alberta RCMP

VPD constables Adam King, Zach Guy and Silvana Burtini are under investigation by the Alberta RCMP. (File photo) (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Three Vancouver police officers are accused of deceiving investigators with false statements linked to the probe into disgraced former detective James Fisher, a B.C. court has heard.

Two of the officers are also suspected of "corrupt practice," defence lawyer Vicki Williams revealed during a hearing last month in B.C. Supreme Court.

Williams represents accused pimp Omar Alameddin, who was charged after an investigation led by those same officers.

Before now, little has been said publicly about the criminal investigation into constables Adam King, Zach Guy and Silvana Burtini, beyond the fact that they were members of the VPD's Counter Exploitation Unit and came under suspicion in connection with the investigation into Fisher's misconduct.

In a voir dire held on Jan. 20, Williams shone some light on the situation, revealing the officers' names as well as some of the allegations about their conduct, according to audio recordings reviewed by CBC.

She stressed that the officers have not been charged with anything. The officers' lawyer, Kevin Woodall, told CBC he could not comment on the allegations against them.

During the hearing, Williams referred to evidence gathered during the VPD investigation into Fisher's abuse of young sex trafficking victims, alleging Fisher asked King and Burtini to speak with one of those young women in an attempt to quell rumours about sexual contact between the woman and Fisher.

According to Williams, the VPD's report to Crown counsel says Fisher told King before the meeting, "remind her that she may have been on drugs at the time or her memory might not have been so great."

Neither officer took notes or recordings during that meeting, and they later informed a superior officer that the young woman had denied making allegations against Fisher, Williams told the court.

Fisher eventually admitted to kissing that same young woman three times when she was 17 years old. He pleaded guilty to breach of trust and sexual exploitation in 2018 and was sentenced to 20 months in jail.

'Misconduct relating to deceit'

During the Jan. 20 hearing, Williams read excerpts from a June 15, 2017, order for external investigation made by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner that broadly outlines what King, Guy and Burtini are accused of doing.

"All three officers are alleged to have committed misconduct relating to deceit, by making or procuring the making of any oral or written statement that to the members' knowledge is false or misleading," Williams said.

The date of the alleged deceit is Jan. 13, 2017, the same day all three officers gave statements to investigators in the Fisher case, Williams said.

"Officers King and Burtini are facing a second allegation under the Police Act of corrupt practice, which is defined in the act as using or attempting to use one's position as a member for personal gain or other purposes unrelated to the proper performance of duties as a member," she added.

Burtini is a former high-level soccer player who represented Canada at three Women's World Cups.

Former detective James Fisher was sentenced to 20 months in jail for sexual exploitation and breach of trust. (Government of British Columbia)

CBC has not reviewed either the report to Crown counsel or the order from the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. Spokespeople for the OPCC and the VPD declined to comment on the allegations raised during the Jan. 20 hearing.

King, Guy and Burtini are currently under investigation by the major crimes unit of the Alberta RCMP. They remain on duty in Vancouver, but have been transferred out of the Counter Exploitation Unit.

Williams was in court to ask for disclosure of files concerning the allegations against King, Guy and Burtini, arguing that their actions may have affected the investigation into Alameddin.

"They were affiants in production orders. They were the lead investigators. They interviewed witnesses. They did various investigative tasks, so these are witnesses who were centrally involved in the case," Williams said.

She said the materials about the investigation into the three officers, "may raise a serious concern with respect to the integrity of the investigation and similarly whether the evidence is credible or reliable."

'Not unwitting participants'

Williams told the court that she also hoped to access disclosure that was made during the trial of Michael Bannon, another pimp who was convicted after an investigation by the Counter Exploitation Unit.

Williams represented Bannon in that trial, and said the Crown at the time disclosed electronic communications between Fisher and the other officers "which demonstrates from a strong position that officer King and officer Burtini are not unwitting participants in this, that they were actively involved in Fisher's misdeeds in interfering with witnesses, coaching their evidence."

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lisa Warren has yet to rule on Williams' applications for disclosure.

Her client, Alameddin, is scheduled to go to trial in April on multiple charges related to the sex trade. Alameddin was charged in connection with an operation run by Tamim Albashir and Kasra Mohsenipour, who are currently appealing their convictions and seeking disclosure about Fisher's misconduct.

The last year has seen a steady stream of new allegations against Fisher, including suggestions that his misconduct was much more serious and extensive than previously known.

There have been allegations that Fisher sexually abused several other young women during the course of his investigations into Vancouver pimps, beginning mere months after he joined the Counter Exploitation Unit in 2011.

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.