Brian Kieran was at the top of his game, running a small but highly influential lobbying firm in Victoria, when a police investigation into political corruption shattered his professional life.
"Beyond shock … stunned and blindsided," he said in describing how he felt when police revealed a senior partner in his firm had bribed Dave Basi, a top ministerial aide in the Liberal government.
"Our wonderfully successful boutique agency, which had enjoyed an outstanding reputation and had been viewed within the industry as an organization of utmost integrity, was dead in about 12 hours," said Mr. Kieran, a former journalist whose connections in the capital had made him a go-to lobbyist for many companies.
His firm was swept up in the case when police served a search warrant on the company, in 2003, on the same day investigators made an unprecedented raid on the provincial legislature in pursuit of criminal evidence against Mr. Basi and Bob Virk.
On Monday, Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk pleaded guilty to breach of trust and accepting benefits for leaking confidential government information about the $1-billion sale of BC Rail to CN Rail. They were each sentenced to two years less a day under house arrest, and Mr. Basi was given a $75,000 fine.
At the time of the raids, police did not suggest Pilothouse Public Affairs, which Mr. Kieran ran with Erik Bornman and Jamie Elmhirst, was under any suspicion.
The company survived the image blow of having its offices raided in the high-profile case - but not a subsequent disclosure in the courts in which the RCMP stated Mr. Basi had taken a $25,659 bribe from Mr. Bornman.
That allegation stunned Mr. Kieran - and his clients, who soon began cancelling their contracts.
"They felt we were tainted," he said of the long-standing customers who abruptly cut ties with Pilothouse.
Mr. Kieran said he had not had any inkling of the bribe and only learned of it when documents were released in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, two years after the legislature raids.
"I think it was about five years ago when the Crown released the first bundle of redacted evidence, and in there those payments by Bornman were made public," he said. "When that happened, my entire staff in Victoria was blindsided, dumbfounded. … We completely tore our offices apart [looking for records of the bribe payments] We went through every cheque stub. … There was absolutely no evidence of those payments in our accounting records."
But in a statement of agreed facts filed this week in court, Mr. Basi admitted he "received payments totalling $25,695.00 from Eric [sic]Bornman during the same time that OmniTRAX was bidding on the Fort Nelson line and the Freight Division."
Pilothouse represented OmniTRAX Inc., a U.S. company that unsuccessfully bid for BC Rail.
Mr. Bornman, who was scheduled to appear as a Crown witness before the trial ended with guilty pleas, made the payments "for political favors and support, client referrals and the provision of information," according to the statement of facts.
Asked why he thought Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk had been leaking government information to his firm, if not for rewards of some kind, Mr. Kieran said: "I believe they were assisting us because they wanted the process to be fair. No one ever asked [me]for a bribe."
In addition to the cash bribe given to Mr. Basi, both Mr. Virk and Mr. Basi have admitted they received "personal benefits" from Pilothouse, in the form of a paid trip for them and their wives to attend a Denver Broncos football game.
Mr. Kieran said he'd advised his client against providing the Denver trip, but OmniTRAX made the offer anyway.
After the bribes became public and his business collapsed, Mr. Kieran said he retreated to his home on Pender Island and "just kept my head down."
He surfaced only this week to make his first statements to the media. He said now that the case has finally been settled, he wants to return to work.
"I want to get back and do the 'wordsmithing' thing again," he said, referring to his past journalism. "You know, I really don't have much of an appetite for lobbying anymore."