A North Vancouver lawyer who won unprecedented access to Crown files in a political corruption case has been hired by Conservative MLA John van Dongen to investigate the matter.
Mr. van Dongen, who caused a stir when he quit the Liberal Party on Monday, said he hopes Roger McConchie can answer some of the troubling questions that still surround the conviction of two former ministerial aides – Dave Basi and Bobby Virk – on breach of trust charges.
“Well I think the really key question is the decision to forgive the $6-million in legal fees, completely contrary to government policy, for the stated purpose of saving some money overall. We don’t normally do that on any other criminal case. Why and how did that happen?” said Mr. van Dongen.
Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk were top aides in the government of former Liberal premier Gordon Campbell. They entered guilty pleas in a breach of trust case in 2010, after maintaining their innocence through a lengthy pretrial process. The pleas came shortly after the trial had begun, bringing an abrupt end to a case that was expected to expose the inner workings of the government.
The terms of the plea bargain were never released. Critics have long alleged the government went for the deal in order to silence the two men, whose defence was that they had been following orders when they leaked confidential cabinet information about the 2003 sale of B.C. Rail, for $1-billion.
Mr. van Dongen said behind closed doors he and other Liberal members questioned the decision to pay the legal fees of public servants who had admitted guilt.
“Well, we didn’t get an answer,” he said. “We were simply told, ‘Hey, we’re going to save money doing this [by shortening the trial]… It just didn’t pass the smell test, not then and not now. And so I’m talking to Roger … I’ve asked him to examine the thing and give me advice,” said Mr. van Dongen.
Mr. McConchie declined comment on his assignment for Mr. van Dongen. He has appeared in court for The Globe and Mail numerous times to argue for access to search warrants and other documents filed in the Basi-Virk case.
After the trial ended, Mr. McConchie worked with The Globe to gain access to thousands of pages of material on which the Crown had based its successful prosecution. The extent of the release was unprecedented in B.C.
The Crown files did not contain information about the plea bargain, but did show that Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk had worked as a team of two, dealing confidential government information to lobbyists Erik Bornmann and Bruce Clark. Mr. Clark was a Liberal fundraiser, and is brother to Premier Christy Clark.
Leonard Krog, attorney-general critic for the NDP, said he welcomes Mr. van Dongen’s attempt to get at details behind the case.
“Maybe Mr. McConchie has an angle on this the opposition hasn’t considered. … I suspect not, but I am delighted to see the BC Rail case back in the news,” he said. “We have never had the full story on the BC Rail scandal.
“This case still stinks.”
Mr. Krog has repeatedly called for a public inquiry.