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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)

How Erik Bornman went from powerful B.C. lobbyist to star Crown witness Add to ...

Erik Bornman, the lobbyist who became the Crown's star witness in the successful prosecution of ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk, was at a nexus of political power in British Columbia when the police came calling.

RCMP wiretaps of his frequent conversations with Mr. Basi show he was busy linking wealthy donors with Liberal Party officials, trying to influence government policy in favour of clients to his firm, Pilothouse Public Affairs, and discussing taking over riding associations. Two veteran MPs they talked about targeting were Herb Dhaliwal, disliked because he was not a Paul Martin loyalist, and David Anderson, whose strong voice on West Coast environmental issues wasn't appreciated.

Mr. Basi, then an aide to finance minister Gary Collins, was a shrewd political organizer whose posse, called "Basi's Boys," specialized in taking over riding associations and then ousting candidates they didn't like.

The police weren't interested in such political maneuverings. What they wanted to know was if Mr. Basi had been leaking confidential government documents to Mr. Bornman, a lobbyist whose client, OmniTRAX Inc., was bidding for BC Rail, which was sold in 2003 to Canadian National Railway for $1-billion.

On the morning of Dec. 28th, 2003 - the same day police were raiding the B.C. legislature offices of Mr. Basi and Mr.Virk - an RCMP officer knocked on an apartment door in Vancouver's West End.

"Who's there?" asked Mr. Bornman, who often worked at home.

"It's the police."

When he opened the door Cpl. John Taylor held up his I.D.

"This is my badge...That's a copy of the search warrant. I'll ask you to read that," said Cpl. Taylor, who waited a moment. "OK, do you understand that? Yes?"

"Yes," replied an obviously stunned Mr. Bornman.

"OK. You don't need to say anything. Anything that you do say can be used against you. You can contact a lawyer if you wish. That document allows us to search this apartment for documents and for a computer. . . . I've got a tape recorder on. . .and it's for my protection and for yours. If you wish to say anything, you're welcome to but you don't have to," Cpl. Taylor said.

"OK. Well, just let me know how I can help," Mr. Bornman said.

"OK . . .we're looking mainly for documents and the computer. . .I notice that there's a lot of documents all over the place and we will look everywhere . . . but where's the main area that we can expect to find these things that we're looking for?" he asked.

"They are mainly . . . in here but . . .they're all over the place. I'm not a very organized person," Mr. Bornman said.

"Alright. So mainly they're in this two-drawer filing cabinet in your bedroom? Alright...is there anything that you wish to say?" asked the police officer.

"No," Mr. Bornman said. "I'm a little shocked."

"OK. I'll start at it then ... I can give you a number for Legal Aid if you want."

"Legal Aid?" Mr. Bornman asked.

"If you've got a cell phone you can go into the bathroom, make a phone call from there if you want to be in private," Cpl. Taylor said.

Later, Cpl. Rick Koop can be heard referring to "OmniTRAX and BC Rail" files he's uncovered.

"Those are notes for a screenplay I'm working on....just in case [you see]anything really crazy there," Mr. Bornman said at one point, as police sort through his files.

"Yeah, I don't think we'll take those," Cpl. Steve Reinhart replied.

Before leaving, Cpl. Taylor told Mr. Bornman police wouldn't be announcing the search of his home, but they did plan a press conference to explain a larger investigation then underway - which included a raid that morning on the legislature.

"We're preparing the news release tomorrow. It's . . .relating to drug trafficking and money laundering," Cpl. Taylor said.

"I'm not a part of that investigation," said Mr. Bornman hopefully.

"It all started in the same place," replied Cpl. Taylor, who knew that Mr. Basi's phone had been wiretapped because of the frequent calls he was making to cocaine kingpin, Jas Bains.

With that last comment the police officers stepped out into the hallway, taking with them a raft of files and leaving Mr. Bornman standing alone in his messy apartment, his world shattered.

Mr. Bornman, who admitted to making regular payments to Mr. Basi, would later agree to be a Crown witness. He was never charged.

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