The Basi-Virk BC Rail circus has finally come to an end, and the investigation that took over seven years to complete – and cost taxpayers an estimated $6 million in legal fees for the defendants – is being heralded as yet another betrayal in a long list of treacheries committed by the BC Liberal Government.
The case all began with a police-led raid on the BC legislature after allegations had surfaced of corruption in the BC provincial government’s sale of Crown Corporation BC rail to CN rail for $1 billion.
Two aides to government ministers, Dave Basi and Bob Virk, were accused of leaking information to private bidders, as well as accepting bribes from corporations.
Both Basi and Virk eventually pleaded guilty to charges of breach of trust and accepting benefits (corruption), admitting that they gave information to one of the lead bidders for BC Rail OmniTrax. Both defendants will serve two years-minus-a-day house arrest, and Virk will be forced to pay a $75,000 fine, essentially amounting to what he received in bribes.
Legal proceedings against the accused began in December of 2003, often being drawn out by lengthy court delays and unnecessary stoppages.
It was revealed shortly after the conclusion of the case that both parties would have their legal fees paid for by the province, with their guilty outcome not becoming a factor in having to pay back any money.
Government policy, for a change, is exceptionally clear on this very point. Government workers and MLAs who are either charged or sued while doing their jobs, have all of their legal fees covered by the province. That is, unless they are found guilty.
Premier Gordon Campbell has noted that the government will pursue as soft a punishment as you could get. The expression “a slap on the wrist” may be too severe for house arrest, which allows the guilty parties access to shopping and gym time. I doubt anybody who has followed the case feels like justice has been served for these two individuals.
This case is nothing more than a desperate Liberal party saving face any way they can, looking to avoid that last minute knockout-punch that could finally put them over the edge. Being at a 9 per cent approval rating presently, it would undoubtedly not take much. The fact that the individuals pleaded guilty after dragging out the case for so long only serves to prove that the powers that be were applying pressure to the guilty parties.
When all the dust settles from this mockery of justice, and the media moves on to the next Liberal blunder, the question will still remain – what happened preceding the sale of BC rail?
Citizens of BC are still scratching their heads over a deal that, for all intents and purposes, should have never been made. Campbell reneged on a pre-election promise to sell BC Rail, and as a result got his party’s name corrupted in the process.