BC Legislature Raids

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The BC Legislature Raids (also known as Railgate after Watergate) resulted from search warrants executed on the Legislature of British Columbia, Canada, in 2003 and has become a collective term for the associated criminal proceedings and ensuant controversies. Hearings began in BC Supreme Court in April 2007. The proceedings brought to light questions concerning the propriety of the sale of BC Rail to CN Rail and the conduct of various government officials and consultants as well as the role of various members of the government, including Premier Gordon Campbell and his advisers. In October 2010, ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk pleaded guilty to breach of trust and receiving a benefit for leaking information about the BC Rail bidding process.

Drug sting "Everywhichway" leads to government aides[edit]

According to the RCMP, the Raids arose from information uncovered during a drug sting.[1][2] In 2003, the RCMP were monitoring Dave Basi's conversations on his home, government, and cellular phones, as well as his e-mails. At that time the police were focused on breaking up a marijuana and cocaine smuggling ring between British Columbia and Ontario run by his cousin Jasmohan Singh Bains.[3]

During the police investigation of Basi's activities investigators became interested in Basi's dealings as Ministerial Assistant to then Finance Minister Gary Farrell-Collins.[4] A second investigation was launched that had no connection to drug related activities but rather to the sale of benefits in regard to the tendering process for the sale of BC Rail.

On December 28, 2003, a series of search warrants was executed at various locations throughout the Lower Mainland and in Victoria. There were four separate applications by the RCMP in 2004 to obtain warrants, and according to the CBC these were executed at nine separate premises including the Parliament Buildings in Victoria. As a result, allegations of bribery were made (including money and the offer of potential employment in return for confidential government information).

The sale of BC Rail involved a tax indemnity. This was structured so that if CN would not have been refunded $415 million from the Federal Government, then the Province would be required to return this amount to CN. This had the effect of reducing the sale price of BC Rail from $1.05 billion to under $500 million, thereby in essence short-changing taxpayers more than $550 million.[5] (This is in addition to $750 million cash payments and $250 million in direct tax credits, as noted in the section on Patrick Kinsella below.) The BC Rail tax indemnity was taken off the Public Accounts in January 2005, before the May 2005 election, when it was reclassified a contingent liability.

BC Rail link[edit]

On April 3, 2006, a Justice of the British Columbia Supreme Court ordered the further release of various documents used by police to obtain the search warrants served on individuals linked to the Raids.[6]

Further charges were laid against two Victoria area developers.

Agricultural Land Commission connection[edit]

Basi has also been charged for accepting $50,000 in connection with the Agricultural Land Commission.

Liberal "insiders"[edit]

Several of the people cited by online commentators or certain reporters in the story surrounding the raid are politically active people who had come into contact with Basi. Examples include provincial ministers, staff or officials in the Liberal Party of Canada or the Paul Martin leadership campaign.

Search warrants were executed at several locations in addition to the BC Legislature. The Vancouver home office of Erik Bornmann, the Vancouver home of Bruce Clark (brother of Christy Clark, CKNW 980 talk show host), and the offices of Pilothouse public affairs in Victoria in December 2003. It has been reported that Erik Bornmann, Brian Kieran and Jamie Elmhirst will testify for the Crown. The RCMP also attended Ms. Clark's home that she shared with her ex-husband Mark Marissen.[7]

The RCMP made it very clear that no elected officials were implicated in their investigation, and also provided a letter to Marissen (Paul Martin's BC Campaign Chair) confirming that he was also not implicated in any way and that they came to his house without a search warrant to seek his help because they thought he might be the "innocent recipient" of emails related to Virk's and Basi's resumes, because it was alleged that they were seeking job recommendations for federal political employment in Ottawa.[8] Basi was an active volunteer for the Paul Martin campaign in British Columbia, who recruited many members of the Indo-Canadian community to the Liberal Party to vote in the leadership process. This has led to rampant speculation and innuendo as government critics attempt to link Basi's activities to federal and provincial politicians and operatives, and spread "guilt by association". Part of this speculation is fuelled by comments made to the media at the time of the raids by the officer in charge, that organized crime and corruption were present in "the highest levels of the government".

Charges laid[edit]

In December 2004 three men were charged in connection with this investigation and in 2006 two more men were charged.

Those charged include:

  • David Basi
  • Robert Virk
  • Aneal Basi
  • Tony Young
  • James Duncan

Legality of warrants[edit]

Complications in the case included controversy as to whether the police may have misled a judge in the course of obtaining warrants for the investigation which involved eavesdropping on conversations between the Premier and the Finance Minister. Twice the warrants were rejected on grounds of privilege, with the third warrant issued without naming the premises, which were the Legislature Buildings.

Developments in 2009[edit]

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act[edit]

The preliminary hearings into eventual criminal court proceedings were kept sealed from the public until opened up in the public's interest, and by requests from defence council, in the fall of 2008 by the presiding justice, Elizabeth Bennett, who struck down the court ban in the grounds of the importance of an open court in regard to the importance of the case to the public interest, contrary to the objections of the government-appointed Special Prosecutor. On February 25, 2009, Judge Bennett released 8000 pages of documents relating to the legislature raids to the New Democrat Official Opposition.[9]

The documents produced attention immediately, first to what appeared to be B.C. Liberal Party fundraising activities originating from the Finance Minister's office,[10][11][12] then to the B.C. Liberal government's strategy for dominating the media discourse and neutralizing question period.[13][14][15][16]

On March 6, 2009, after raising these two stories the B.C. New Democratic Party caucus released the documents to the public through their website.[17][18]

The Kinsella connection[edit]

Shortly after the B.C. New Democratic Caucus won access to the 8000 pages of B.C. rail documents, their researchers uncovered a link between long-time B.C. Liberal Party insider Patrick Kinsella [19] and B.C. Rail while looking through public documents available at the legislative library. The documents showed that between 2002 and 2004, B.C. Rail paid $297,000 to the group of companies owned by Kinsella.[20]

The discovered documents were first aired in question period on Tuesday, March 10, 2009. When questioned by New Democratic Party justice critic, Leonard Krog, about what Kinsella was paid by B.C. Rail to do, the Attorney General, Wally Oppal, claimed that "the issue relating to B.C. Rail is before the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and we will not comment on the matter." [21]

Kinsella's company, the Progressive Group, issued a statement claiming that Kinsella "was engaged by BC Rail to assist in understanding and interpreting the Core Review Process as to its potential impact on the Corporation", while on B.C. Rail's payroll.[22]

Questioned outside of the legislature Oppal said that he had no idea if Kinsella's activities were connected to the B.C. Rail trial.[23] Soon after, a defence lawyer involved in the trial alleged that Kinsella was working for both CN Rail and BC Rail in the time before the $1-billion sale of BC Rail to CN was finalized.[24]

Kinsella wrote the B.C. Liberal Party election platform for the 2003 and 2005 elections.[25] Kinsella's involvement in the political corruption trial [26] has led observers to draw a link between the B.C. rail scandal [27] and Gordon Campbell.[28][29][30]

According to an email cited by defense lawyer Kevin McCullough, Kinsella may have interceded with Premier Gordon Campbell's chief of staff to keep the sale of B.C. rail to C.N. from "going off the tracks." [31]

Kinsella is alleged to have been involved in entering the $505 million BC Rail tax indemnity (refund) on the books at 255 million.

The sale of BC Rail included a $505 million BC Rail tax indemnity on top of $750 million cash and $250 million in direct tax credits. Under the terms of the indemnity, if CN would not have been refunded the amount of the indemnity from the Federal Government, then the Province would be required to return this amount. This reduced the sale price of BC Rail from $1.05 billion to roughly $500 million, thereby benefiting private shareholders of CN, albeit at the expense of the public at large. The BC Rail tax indemnity was taken off the Public Accounts in January 2005, before the May 2005 election, when it was reclassified a contingent liability.

The BC Rail sale Annual Report was defective and did not cite the indemnity, and recorded these tax credits at zero bookvalue.[32]

Developments in 2010[edit]

The BC Rail corruption trial[edit]

The BC Rail corruption trial (Her Majesty the Queen v. Basi), Virk Basi and commonly known as the Basi-Virk Trial, started on May 17, 2010.[33][34] The trial was originally scheduled by B.C. Supreme Court officials [35] to last around six weeks.

Canadian media have expressed frustration at the time it has taken to get this case to trial.[36][37]

A publication ban by the presiding judge put most of the B.C. rail trial – from its beginning to July 6, 2010, when the court rose for the summer,[38] out of reach of the media and out of the public eye.[39]

The first witness: Chief of Staff Martyn Brown[edit]

Premier Gordon Campbell's chief of staff, Martyn Brown, was the first witness to appear before the jury in the B.C. Rail trial.[40]

End of trial[edit]

October 2010 – Defendants Dave Basi and Bob Virk agreed to change their plea to guilty on a reduced number of charges.[41] For more info related to this, see Timeline_of_BC_Legislature_Raids#2010


  1. ^ CanWest News Service, "Drug link alleged in Basi case," Times Colonist, May 08, 2007, retrieved from here on March 30 2009
  2. ^ Neal Hall and Jim Beatty, "B.C.'s Hells Angels," Vancouver Sun, Page A01, September 11, 2004
  3. ^ "Drug dealer linked to legislature raid imprisoned: RCMP oddly silent about key victory against cocaine ring", Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun, February 17, 2008, retrieved here on March 30, 2009
  4. ^ Ian Bailey, "Ex-minister wants spy tape released", The Province, A10, February 28, 2007
  5. ^ "A BC Rail time bomb is still ticking for B.C. taxpayers", Vancouver Sun, April 21, 2009, retrieved here [1]
  6. ^ http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/06/20/2006BCSC2084.htm
  7. ^ Vancouver Province newspaper
  8. ^ http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=6611281e-d916-4335-a77d-6ca1a05d2a55
  9. ^ Mark Hume, "Provincial NDP obtain files related to sale of BC Rail", Globe and Mail, February 25, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  10. ^ Michael Smyth, "NDP stymied in attempt to get Stonewally to open up", The Province, March 3, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  11. ^ a digital copy of the documents released by Judge Bennett which appears to show partisan fundraising being conducted from the Finance Minister's office
  12. ^ Andrew MacLeod, "Liberals used government offices for fundraising work", The Tyee, Hook Blog, March 2, 2009 retrieved here on March 29, 2009
  13. ^ Michael Smyth, "Priceless view that cost us lots", The Province, March 5, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  14. ^ Bill Tieleman, "Document urges BC Liberal aides to avoid answers, spin the media", The Tyee, Hook Blog, March 2, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  15. ^ Charlie Smith, "Premier Gordon Campbell's office: 'It's Question Period, not Answer Period'", The Straight, March 7, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  16. ^ a digital copy of the document entitled 'House Review: A Day In The Life' as released by Judge Elizabeth Bennett
  17. ^ Crawford Killian, "NDP posts documents from BC Rail trial", The Tyee, Hook Blog, March 6, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  18. ^ way back machine retrieval of the online archive of B.C. Rail Documents released to the New Democrat Caucus
  19. ^ Andrew MacLeod, "Pat Kinsella's Bumpy Career", The Tyee, June 16, 2008, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  20. ^ Vaughn Palmer, "Stonewally to the fore as NDP pounds Kinsella connection", Vancouver Sun, March 12, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  21. ^ Hansard, Tuesday, March 10, 2009, Afternoon, Vol. 39, No. 11, oral question period, ROLE OF PATRICK KINSELLA IN B.C. RAIL SALE, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  22. ^ Jonathan Fowlie and Neal Hall, "Judge raises Kinsella lobbying in Basi-Virk case", Vancouver Sun, March 13, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  23. ^ Lindsay Kines, "B.C. Liberals silent on payments to party official", Times Colonist, March 12, 2009, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  24. ^ Neal Hall and Johnathan Fowlie, "Kinsella worked for both sides, lawyer says", Vancouver Sun, March 27, retrieved from here on March 29, 2009
  25. ^ Jonathan Fowlie, "A quiet titan finds an uncomfortable limelight" , Vancouver SunMarch 16, 2009, retrieved from here on April 2, 2009
  26. ^ Mark Hume and Justine Hunter, "Campbell's ally in spotlight at corruption trial", Globe and Mail, March 27, 2009, retrieved from here on April 2, 2009
  27. ^ Gary Mason, "Whiff of scandal envelops sale of BC Rail", Globe and Mail, March 26, retrieved from here on April 2, 2009
  28. ^ Gary Mason, Globe and Mail, "Premier faces questions, and voters need answers, about sale of BC Rail", Page A10, March 26, 2009
  29. ^ Gary Mason, "As election looms, new revelations about BC Rail stir up waters", Globe and Mail, March 28, 2009, retrieved from here on April 2
  30. ^ Vaughn Palmer, "Campbell's BC Rail deal just can't shake whiff of scandal", Vancouver Sun, March 14, 2009, retrieved from here on April 2, 2009 relevant quote "Campbell, Kinsella in BC Rail tryst".
  31. ^ Keith Fraser, "Liberal insider accused of double-dealing 'sham'", Page A12, The Province, March 27, 2009
  32. ^ "A BC Rail time bomb is still ticking for B.C. taxpayers: Campbell Liberals left us on the hook for half a billion", Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun, April 21, 2009
  33. ^ courts.gov.bc.ca R. v Basi 2010 BCSC 1622 2010/10/18
  34. ^ http://www.theprovince.com/news/Finally+truth+behind+Rail/3036949/story.html story retrieved on July 9, 2010
  35. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/06/07/bc-bc-rail-trial-basi-virk-extension.html story retrieved on July 9, 2010
  36. ^ http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/politics/story.html?id=3039961 story retrieved on July 9, 2010
  37. ^ http://www.timescolonist.com/news/Rail+trial+delays/3255202/story.html story retrieved on July 9, 2010
  38. ^ http://www.vancouversun.com/news/September+judge+tells+jury+Basi+Virk+trial/3241894/story.html story retrieved on July 9, 2010
  39. ^ https://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/BC-Politics/2010/03/08/RailBan/ story retrieved on July 9, 2010
  40. ^ http://news.sympatico.cbc.ca/local/bc/top_aide_on_stand_as_bc_rail_trial_resumes/bbdcb16d story retrieved on July 9, 2010
  41. ^ https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/bc-rail-trial-ends-after-deal-reached/article1762012/ Globe and Mail Update Published Monday, Oct. 18, 2010

External links[edit]

National news coverage[edit]

The players and government background information[edit]

Blog/internet sites[edit]