Does the Heed case raise questions about BC’s Special Prosecutors?

On May 4th, 2010 Special Prosecutor Terrance Robertson released his report on alleged irregularities in the BC Liberal campaign in Vancouver-Fraserview.   Robertson recommended three charges against Campaign Manager Barinder Sall, five charges against printer Dinesh Khanna and one count against Official Agent Satpal Johl.

Mr. Robertson declined to recommend charges against Kash Heed, the BC Liberal elected MLA by a small margin in the May 2009 election.  According to Mr. Robertson there was “nothing to show that Kash Heed had any personal knowledge that the election financing report was false,” and that there was “no substantial likelihood of conviction of Mr. Heed”.

One day later Robertson resigned – as Special Prosecutor he was also responsible for conducting the prosecution before the court – citing a conflict related to a donation his firm made to the Heed campaign.

A new special prosecutor – Peter Wilson – was appointed to both conduct the prosecution and to review Mr. Robertson’s decisions.  And Gordon Campbell had a special day, re-hiring and re-firing Heed in a multi-continent keystone kop escapade.

Fast forward to last week.  The new Special Prosecutor hasn’t released his report, but search warrants released last week make it clear that the investigation overseen by Mr. Robertson was not complete.

New information discovered by a renewed investigative team turned up evidence that lead to substantial allegations of criminal code violations against Mr. Heed and election act violations against both Heed and well-known businessman Peter Dhillon.

In other words, the investigation overseen by Mr. Robertson was only partial.  The search warrants made public last week make this very clear.  According to the warrants, as Mr. Robertson was releasing his report, search warrants were in the process of being produced and executed – for financial records, for third party advertising records, for contribution records.

And at least one of the warrant targets involved Kash Heed’s Visa records.  In other words, Mr. Robertson seems to have cleared Mr. Heed before the facts were in.

The flurry of warrants led the RCMP to tie the mysterious anti-NDP radio ads that appeared in the Chinese language market directly to the Heed campaign, alleging that the campaign and Mr. Heed broke election laws in the process.

Later, after campaign volunteer Sameer Ismail confessed to lying in his first police interview, another investigative trail was opened up leading to the allegations of breach of trust against Mr. Heed.

Most of the media focus has been on the criminal breaches Heed is alleged to have committed relating to payment for the anti-NDP brochures produced by the Heed campaign.  Those breaches may not have been uncovered without Ismail’s confession.

But the Search Warrants show the RCMP was already on Heed’s trail in relation to election act offenses related to “3rd party” advertising actually paid for by the Heed campaign, suggesting Mr. Robertson’s clearing of Heed was at best premature.

Mr. Robertson resigned over the appearance of “conflict of interest.”  The investigative pattern revealed in the search warrants released last week leads one to wonder at what point does appearance cross over into reality.

Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at the implementation of BC’s Special Prosecutorial system.  More on this later.

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4 Responses to Does the Heed case raise questions about BC’s Special Prosecutors?

  1. Norm Farrell says:

    Perhaps, instead of raising questions, this situation answers questions.

  2. BC Mary says:

    The improper selection of William Berardino as Special Prosecutor for the most important trial in BC history is another element crying out for a Public Inquiry into all aspects of the sale of BC Rail.

    It’s not as if Bill Berardino behaved with the utmost care about balance and fairness either … the agonizing slowness of Crown to provide documents needed by the Defence … the strange double-cross of Justice Elizabeth Bennett (fair-minded, determined, thorough) in favour of a new, unprepared Justice Anne MacKenzie who seemed wildly determined to convict somebody and go home …

    Ian, I look forward to your column analyzing the Special Prosecutors of BC … and Bill B. in particular.

  3. PG says:

    The Special Prosecutor system in BC is designed to keep police investigations independent and without interference from the political arm of government, in principle. However, the SP model is used far more frequently than the public are aware of and given the hourly rate at which the Special Prosecutors are paid, it is a gravy train. There needs be a change with the model and how SP’s are announced to the public.

    You will recall that the BC Liberals were under fire for “special prosecutor shopping” by the Supreme Court and in the case of BC Rail, we have Mr. Berardino donating $600 to the BC Liberal party (May of 2005) during his term as special prosecutor. All issues that have many people asking for some transparency and accountability for the special prosecutor system. It would be a start.

  4. Ole Nielson says:

    Hi Ian, thanks, I enjoy your thoughtful and well-written posts. It was learned this afternoon that Peter Dhillon was awarded the Order of BC shortly after making a donation to Kash Heed’s election campaign. Any comments on this? Thanks again, and keep up the good work!

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