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.