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The provincial government has debt collectors in various guises going after British Columbians every day for a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.

Yet when it was owed $6-million by two former employees for legal fees paid by the province on their behalf, it didn't attempt to get a cent of it back. Why? Why give two people, who admitted to betraying their public duties so egregiously and causing the government such grief and embarrassment, such a remarkable break?

Surely there was a house or car to seize, no? Then why not make them endure the indignity of declaring bankruptcy? Or garnish their wages over the next several years, a fate that befalls the common person every day?

Is it possible that in caving into the defendants' demands to have their legal fees paid, the B.C. government saw a way of buying their silence in the future? What if, for $6-million, it could guarantee that the two defendants would never say a word about the secrets they may hold on the inner workings of the administration of Premier Gordon Campbell?

Would it be worth it?

Attorney-General Mike de Jong confirmed Monday that he gave final approval to the controversial arrangement with Dave Basi and Bob Virk, who were placed under house arrest for two years less a day for their role in the BC Rail saga.

What wasn't revealed in his conversation with reporters was the fact the two men, who pleaded guilty to leaking secret government information in exchange for cash and other financial benefits, had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to get the $6-million reprieve.

Mr. de Jong said Monday the reason the government decided to pay the pair's legal bills was because there was no chance of the two men repaying what they owed. If so, why have them sign a document that prevents them from talking about almost everything to do with their time in government?

According to sources, when asked anything about the deal, Mr. Virk and Mr. Basi have been ordered to follow a tight script: "I must refer all matters to the Attorney-General," they have been told to say. It was a phrase they both would utter several times on Monday.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General could shed little light on the nondisclosure agreement Tuesday, saying lawyers in the legal services branch were meeting to discuss my request for information.

When asked about the existence of the pact, Michael Bolton, lawyer for Mr. Basi, offered a curt: "I'm not prepared to comment on that."

Special prosecutor Bill Berardino, meantime, was also quick to disassociate himself from the matter. "All of that stuff does not touch or involve my responsibility as special prosecutor whatsoever. And that's all I'm going to say."

The provincial government may not want to call a public inquiry into the BC Rail sale in light of the stunning conclusion Monday of the criminal trial that was, by extension, looking into the deal. But it should immediately come clean on what stipulations were attached to the $6-million agreement it reached with Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk. What exactly are they prohibited from talking about and for how long? And what other actions is the government prohibited from taking against the two men?

Until answers are provided, it looks like the government made a spectacularly generous offer it would not have made to almost anyone else. Look at Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik, the two defendants in the Air India bombing who were found not guilty of the multiple charges against them.

The B.C. government quite rightly pursued both of them in the courts for $6-million in legal fees the province paid on their behalf. It is still trying to get the money. Why are Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk different?

"If they signed a confidentiality agreement then it adds even more stench to this entire affair," NDP Leader Carole James said Tuesday afternoon. "The government needs to immediately make public the terms and conditions around this reprehensible deal."