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Basi-Virk trial to start after morning delay Add to ...

The long awaited trial of Dave Basi, Bobby Virk and Aneal Basi which was supposed to start Monday morning has been delayed by last minute legal wrangling.

The jurors selected to hear the political corruption case had no sooner been seated in the Supreme Court of British Columbia than the judge dismissed them for several hours.

Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie thanked the jurors for their commitment to the case, but said the court wasn't ready to proceed.

"We have some issues to resolve before I give my opening instructions," she said before asking the jury to leave until recalled.

The jury is expected back at 2 p.m.

Issues argued in court during the jury's absence are subject to a publication ban.

Dave Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi, former government employees, face multiple charges of fraud, breach of trust and money laundering for allegedly trading in confidential information concerning the $1-billion sale of BC Rail in 2003.

The saga began spectacularly when RCMP officers carrying search warrants three days after Christmas of 2003 carted away boxes of documents seized from the Victoria legislature offices of Mr. Basi, an assistant to then B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins, and Mr. Virk, an assistant to then Transportation Minister Judith Reid.

With Mr. Campbell's Liberal Party sitting at 29-per-cent support, according to an April poll by Angus Reid, well behind the opposition NDP at 47 per cent, the long-delayed trial begins just as the government is being assailed for the introduction of the harmonized sales tax.

"He's vulnerable right now," said Evi Mustel, owner of Vancouver polling company Mustel Group Market Research.

"But the more complex the issues, the less likely people will get involved or be influenced by it. And it's a question of how much time has passed. The big question will be whether it reaches the Premier's office or not."

The pall of the charges did not hinder the Liberals during the past two elections, though the party's dominance has waned after its landslide victory in 2001. In 2005 and last year, the Liberals edged out the NDP in close elections. The April Angus Reid poll indicate 82 per cent of British Columbians are against the HST, 64 per cent believe the Liberals are "arrogant" and 52 per cent felt the party is "dishonest."

At B.C. Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver, in a trial that is expected to last six weeks, 44 witnesses are expected to be called by the Crown. Among them is Martin Brown, chief of staff to Mr. Campbell.

Former deputy ministers to the Premier, Ken Dobell and Brenda Eaton, will also testify, along with Claude Mongeau, chief executive officer of Canadian National Railway, which bought BC Rail.

The trial will be heard by Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie. The defendants, who had previously indicated they wanted a trial by judge only, chose to go for a jury trial in February. The jury was selected last month and is comprised of five women and seven men.

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