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Bob Virk, left, and David Basi at Mr. Virk's home in Victoria Dec. 15, 2006. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Bob Virk, left, and David Basi at Mr. Virk's home in Victoria Dec. 15, 2006. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Basi, Virk allegedly paid before BC Rail deal Add to ...

An influential lobbying firm was paying former ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk long before police began to investigate them for leaking confidential government information about the 2003 sale of BC Rail for $1-billion, search warrant affidavits filed by RCMP Corporal Andrew Cowan allege.

The disturbing new details about the political corruption case, which has haunted the government of British Columbia for seven years, are in documents the Supreme Court of B.C. released in response to a media application.

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Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk pleaded guilty to breach of trust in October and are serving one year terms under house arrest in Victoria.

The documents show that Erik Bornman, a director of Pilothouse Public Affairs, told police he began paying Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk for "political support … and for assistance" on a variety of matters almost from the day the Liberals took office in 2001.

And Brian Kieran, another director of the lobbying firm, told police he handed Mr. Basi $3,000 cash in a hotel lobby to compensate him for a trip to a Denver Broncos football game, where he was entertained by a U.S. company then bidding for BC Rail.

In a blog posting on Tuesday, however, Mr. Kieran said he was "stunned to learn that Bornmann admitted to police that [payments by Pilothouse were]part of a pattern of behaviour."

He states that while he paid Mr. Basi for the Denver trip, he was opposed to the payment and made it only because he "was directed to do so" by his client.

Mr. Kieran has said in the past that he didn't know about any bribes paid by Mr. Bornman to Mr. Basi or Mr. Virk.

The scandal over BC Rail erupted in December, 2003, when police raided the legislature, carting away boxes of documents from the offices of Mr. Basi, who was an aide to then-finance-minister Gary Collins, and Mr. Virk, who was an assistant to then-transportation-minister Judith Reid.

In the affidavits, Mr. Bornman (who now spells his last name Bornmann) says his connections to Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk go back to before the Liberals took office.

"I met Basi and Virk … in 1999, in a political capacity … [and]there was an exchange at that time of political favours, prior to the B.C. Liberals forming government in 2001," Mr. Bornman told police.

"David Basi, myself and another individual named Bruce Clark [the brother of Liberal leadership contender Christy Clark]entered into casual discussions surrounding the possibility of a government relations communications practice, subsequent to the expected election of the B.C. Liberals. Following the election and through this period … Basi and Virk continued to be important political contacts and political allies of mine," Mr. Bornman said.

"At that point I started making cash payments to David Basi in consideration for his political support, his support in referring clients to my business and for assistance on client matters … that relationship … manifested itself into a more formal arrangement in April of 2001 … where I proceeded to pay monthly sums or thereabouts to Aneal Basi for the purposes of Dave Basi's use," Mr. Bornman told police.

Charges of money laundering against Aneal Basi were dropped when Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk pleaded guilty. The guilty pleas brought an abrupt end to the case, and Mr. Bornman, who was to be the Crown's key witness, never testified. The statements attributed to him by police in the affidavits were never tested in court.

Mr. Bornman told police monthly payments of $1,000 and then of $1,500 were made to Mr. Basi, "I'm ashamed to say in return for his assistance in referring clients and his assistance on matters of government."

A separate affidavit contains a summary of a police interview with Mr. Kieran, which states Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk, together with their wives, went to a Denver Broncos football game in Colorado in 2002 as guests of OmniTRAX, a U.S. company bidding for BC Rail.

Mr. Kieran said Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk paid for the trip, but were later reimbursed by Pilothouse under instruction from OmniTRAX.

"Brian Kieran felt that David Basi expected to be reimbursed for his expenses and that a cheque would not suffice because 'He wanted cash,' " the police summary states.

Mr. Kieran said he handed Mr. Basi $3,000 cash at the Grand Pacific, a luxury hotel near the legislature in Victoria.

CN won the bid for BC Rail in November, 2003, and about a month later police raided the B.C. legislature.

The affidavits were initially released in 2006, in response to an action by The Globe and Mail, but with portions blacked out. The court released unedited versions in response to a new application by The Globe and Mail, CTV, CBC and GlobalTV.

 

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