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Bob Virk, left, and Dave Basi, centre, emerge with lawyer Michael Bolton from Vancouver's BC Supreme Court building on May 17, 2010. (JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Bob Virk, left, and Dave Basi, centre, emerge with lawyer Michael Bolton from Vancouver's BC Supreme Court building on May 17, 2010. (JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Police documents clear elected Liberals in BC Rail case Add to ...

An exhaustive police investigation into political corruption surrounding the sale of BC Rail found no evidence of wrongdoing by former BC Liberal cabinet minister Christy Clark or any other elected official, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.

In a ruling Wednesday - just 10 days before the Liberal leadership convention in which Ms. Clark is a top contender to replace Premier Gordon Campbell - the Supreme Court of British Columbia has released material that sheds new light on the investigation and prosecution of former ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk.

The documents also show that Ms. Clark was one of several ministers - another being her rival in the leadership race, Kevin Falcon - that lobbyists planned to target in a covert campaign aimed at convincing cabinet that BC Rail should not be sold to Canadian National Railway. That strategy failed, however, and the provincially owned railway went to CN in 2003 for $1-billion.

The material was released in response to an application filed for The Globe and Mail and CTV by Vancouver lawyer Roger McConchie.

The documentation provides for the first time a detailed look inside RCMP Project Everywhichway - and it shows the men worked as a team of two, feeding confidential information to a small group of lobbyists and Liberal insiders without the awareness or support of any government officials.

The documents - daily investigation reports, wiretap transcripts and statements by key witnesses - show police were never suspicious of Ms. Clark, who was deputy premier at the time.

Although police initially suspected Gary Collins, who was then finance minister, those doubts were quickly erased as investigators probed deeper into the activities of Mr. Basi.

"No elected official was ever implicated in any way and we maintained that throughout the entirety of the court process," said special prosecutor William Berardino, who last fall got guilty pleas and two-year sentences under house arrest for Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk on charges of breach of trust and accepting bribes.

Ms. Clark said Wednesday the public release of the court record is an exoneration. "Two people have been convicted of accepting bribes who worked for the government. I mean, that's unacceptable," said Ms. Clark, who was on the campaign trail in the Okanagan. "From a personal perspective it confirms what I've been saying from the beginning. I have a spotlessly clean public record, I have always discharged my duties honourably."

Mr. Collins, who quit politics in 2004, said he is glad the material has been released. "I spent 14 years in office ... trying to restore people's trust in the [political]process ... this thing overshadowed all that work.".

Ms. Clark, who also left politics in 2004, was linked to the case because her former husband, Mark Marissen, a Liberal strategist, and her brother, Bruce Clark, a lobbyist and Liberal fundraiser, were associates of the accused. She also had contact with other lobbyists, including Erik Bornman, who bribed Mr. Basi to obtain government secrets about BC Rail.

During pre-trial hearings, defence lawyers suggested Ms. Clark might have been a source of cabinet leaks to lobbyists, but there is no evidence of that in the extensive police files obtained through the courts.

Nor did the police uncover any wrongdoing by Mr. Marissen or Mr. Clark.

The case came to trial last fall, but little evidence was presented in court because, after maintaining their innocence during pre-trial hearings for seven years, Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk suddenly entered guilty pleas.

The abrupt end to the case led to speculation the government agreed to a plea bargain, in which millions of dollars of defence bills were paid, to head off possibly embarrassing testimony by Mr. Collins, who was about to take the stand.

But the guilty pleas were entered just before the Crown was about to present wiretap evidence in which Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk are heard arranging to give confidential documents to lobbyists.

In one exchange Mr. Basi asks Mr. Virk for new documents to leak.

"Do you got some paper or something, man?" he asks.

"Yeah. Fuck, I didn't have a chance to look. I'll look," Mr. Virk says.

"Find something, man, something that's just juicy, okay? ... Uh, I'm meeting with Erik and the Mexican to seal this deal," he said referring to Mr. Bornman and Mr. Clark.

A keystone of the defence was that the two ministerial aides had only been doing the bidding of their superiors when they leaked confidential information.

But it is clear from statements Mr. Collins made to police that he knew nothing of what Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk were doing.

The files obtained through the courts do not comprise the complete police record - some 50,000 documents - but they do contain the core of the Crown's successful prosecution.

Michael Bolton, a lawyer for Mr. Basi, cautioned that the material provides only a partial picture of a complex case. "These are investigative materials that are created by the police with advice from the Crown ... they necessarily contain one-sided information," he said.

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