Former AG’s lame response to van Dongen

Van Dongen’s BC Rail Questions, part 2

Yesterday, former Attorney General Geoff Plant, took on John van Dongen’s problem with the BC Liberal’s decision to cover the defence costs in the BC Rail trial – to the tune of $6,000,000.

The special payout overturned government policy.  Indemnification against legal costs is not extended to employees found to be guilty.   That all changed with the BC Rail trial.

According to van Dongen, no Premier has answered the many questions surrounding the payout.

Polls taken at the time showed the vast majority of British Columbian voters had major – vote altering – concerns with the government’s decision, believing the payment was more of a cover-up than a rational, legal decision.

With van Dongen’s defection putting the perceived cover-up back on the table, Plant took to the blogosphere to attack van Dongen and offer up an explanation for the decision.

His explanation is lame.  Make that beyond lame.

Here’s Plant’s argument:

“To summarize, guilty pleas had been proposed.  Discussions ensued about the fees.  The special prosecutor was not involved in those discussions.

“Government decided to release the three defendants from any claim for repayment of their legal fees.  The defendants pleaded guilty.  What is clear is that there was no legally binding deal.  There couldn’t be.  The waiver of recovery of fees was not and could not be an inducement to plead guilty.”

Plant goes on to argue that the decision to overturn the indemnity policy was based on a rational comparison of the cost of continuing the trial against the $6,000,000 cost of the payout.  Plant argues that the most they could have gotten out of either Basi or Virk were pennies on the dollar.

But here’s the problem with Plant’s analysis.  The scenario he paints could not have occurred.

Plant claims that the defence first made a deal with the prosecutor for a guilty plea in exchange for a sentence of house arrest.   Then the defence went to the government to discuss indemnity.

Plant’s logic fail occurs right there.  He says government weighed the cost of a continued trial against the cost of the indemnity deciding the indemnity cost was less.

But if there was already a deal to plead guilty -as Plant and the Deputy AG the trial was over.  Therefore there was no cost to weigh the indemnity cost against.

To put it another way, with the guilty plea in the bag as Plant claims, there would be no reason to waive the indemnity.

The government’s and Plant’s rationale doesn’t fit with the way they say the deal was done.  Either that or they gave away $6 million for nothing.

Neither makes sense.

Here’s what I’ve been told really happened:  The defence made it clear to the government that a deal would depend upon both a reduced sentence and a continuing indemnity.  If both weren’t in place, no deal.

And what convinced the government that it was in their interests to go for that deal – which they had rejected several times before?  We’ll look at that tomorrow.

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14 Responses to Former AG’s lame response to van Dongen

  1. Stevie Ray says:

    Every time one of the BC Liberals ( past or present ) try to ” clarify ” what really happened, they just dig the hole deeper. If it looks like a rat, walks like a rat, talks like a rat, and smells like a rat, it is a rat. Every one involved needs to be questioned under oath about the whole stinking pile called BC Rail and everything to do with it.

  2. It was only a short time ago that I was made aware of Geoff Plant’s new website. Out of curiosity I took a quick look and it was very evident it was designed as another biased Liberal site. What Plant has to say means nothing…much as he did when he was AG.
    I have no respect for someone who only wants to complicate the issue in hopes of making the Liberal’s appear less corrupt then they really are.

  3. PG says:

    Why does Geoff Plant ignore the fact that the BC Liberals had included a “gag order” as part of the deal to waive the $6M payback?

    The timeline of the dirty deal also shows that the Liberals had approved the money BEFORE the actual plea inside BC Supreme court. As they say, the money was in the bank on October 14th and the 2 accepted the deal on October 18th….

    Here is an article, the kicker is here:

    “However, Loukidelis’s statement says a letter was sent to the lawyers for Basi and Virk “releasing them and their clients from the October 14, 2010 condition that required they not discuss the above financial matters and that they refer all inquires to the Minister of Attorney General.”

    Defence lawyers discussed fees with government before Basi and Virk pleaded guilty, deputy attorney general says

    By ROB SHAW,

    Defence lawyers for Dave Basi and Bob Virk discussed with government whether the men would have to repay millions in legal fees before they pleaded guilty, the province’s deputy attorney general confirmed Wednesday.

    Two deputy ministers in the B.C. Liberal government ultimately decided to waive fees for both men — despite admissions of criminal activity — leaving taxpayers on the hook for $6 million in legal costs.

    As former senior advisors, both Basi and Virk had indemnity deals that they would repay their legal costs unless they were acquitted on all counts, according to a statement released by deputy attorney general David Loukidelis on Wednesday afternoon.

    But when special prosecutor Bill Berardino made the B.C. government aware on Oct. 5 that he had proposed to let the two men plead guilty, it fell to the deputy minister of finance, Graham Whitmarsh, and Loukidelis to figure out whether they would actually have to come up with the money, Loukidelis’s statement read.

    “A major consideration was the relatively small amounts that might be recovered from Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk compared to the millions of additional dollars it would cost the government to continue to fund defence, prosecution and court-related costs through to the completion of the trial, and to fund any appeals, with no guarantee of convictions,” said Loukidelis.

    “Based on the above, in our respective capacities the Deputy Minister of Finance and I decided to release Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk from their liability to repay. I communicated that decision to the Attorney General on October 8, 2010.

    “No one outside the Legal Services Branch, myself and the Deputy Minister of Finance had any knowledge of this or involvement. For clarity, neither the special prosecutor nor the Attorney General had any knowledge of the matter or any involvement in this.”

    Loukidelis’s statement appears to contradict Attorney General Mike de Jong, who told reporters Monday that he ultimately signed off on the deal based on recommendations from legal services.

    Basi and Virk pleaded guilty Monday to accepting bribes from a lobbyist in exchange for confidential information about the bidding process for the freight division of B.C. Rail in 2003.

    Basi, then aide to finance minister Gary Collins, and Virk, then ministerial assistant to transportation minister Judith Reid, were sentenced to two years less a day of house arrest. Basi must also pay a $75,000 fine.

    Charges of money-laundering against Aneal Basi, a cousin of Dave Basi and former public affairs officer, were stayed by the special prosecutor.

    Opposition NDP Leader Carole James has called on government to hold a public inquiry into the B.C. Rail case, but Premier Gordon Campbell has dismissed the idea because it will cost taxpayers millions more.

    James has also called on Campbell and Attorney General Mike de Jong to release all internal documents on how government decided to pay more than $6 million in legal fees for Basi and Virk, and what role, if any, that decision had in the men’s decision to plead guilty.

    On Wednesday, James called on government to reveal whether Basi and Virk had been placed under non-disclosure agreements and ordered not to talk about how they negotiated their guilty pleas.

    De Jong publicly denied a non-disclosure deal, in an interview with CKNW radio Wednesday.

    However, Loukidelis’s statement says a letter was sent to the lawyers for Basi and Virk “releasing them and their clients from the October 14, 2010 condition that required they not discuss the above financial matters and that they refer all inquires to the Minister of Attorney General.”

  4. kootcoot says:

    “And what convinced the government that it was in their interests to go for that deal – which they had rejected several times before? We’ll look at that tomorrow.”

    I’m not trying to steal your thunder for tomorrow, but I’ll go out on a limb and guess that it had to do with the SILENCE that $6,000,000 can buy………..

  5. Nota bene says:

    “Oh what a tangled web they weave, when first they practice to deceive.”… BC government and their lawyer leeches.

    Buying silence, when intimidation and threats don’t work, is the modus operandi of BC health care authorities too, all funded by us, the sucker taxpayers of this corrupt province.

    And the lawyer industry just keeps rolling in dough, our dough, laughing all the way to the bank.

    Kudos to PG for recounting the story that Rob Shaw of the Times-Colonist wrote when the trial was halted and the $6 million was paid up. I guess they (the flaks, Geoff Plant et al) think we’re pretty stupid, that we wouldn’t remember what was said by whom and when. These cretins just keep blowin’ smoke, hoping no one notices. And they’re banking on a docile, apathetic public to get away with whatever they please, but me thinks their time is coming to an end.

    Keep it going, Ian, you’re nailing these lying bastards to the wall. Call it like it is! BC’s politicians, lawyers, judges — dirty, one and all, save for a few (rare) exceptions.

  6. RossK says:

    My specific question for Mr. Plant is posted both at his place and, with further exposition, at my place, here.

    Looking forward to your post tomorrow Ian.


  7. Boyo says:

    So, if G, then not I. And if Plea G, then not Trial of G. Therefore, Trial v. I is =0 validity. Pretty good math from a boy from a provincial Uni.

  8. tf says:

    Stevie Ray and Guy in Victoria are right on ~

    When I see Geoff Plant add his 2 cents, I look back at the notes I took to try to untangle the insider connections of the stink that is RailGate –

    • Geoff Plant, BC Attorney General, from 2001 to 2005, now partner at Heenan Blaikie.
    • Allan Seckel, the Deputy Attorney General, appointed Wm Berardino as the Special Prosecutor.
    • Before going into politics Plant, Seckel and Berardino all worked together at Russell & Dumoulin (now Fasken Martineau).
    • When in Opposition, Plant and Gordon Campbell were roommates in Victoria.
    • In 2007 Campbell changed the protocol on confidential documents and Seckel made the specific decisions pertaining to the Basi-Virk trial.
    • Jessica McDonald was Deputy Minister to Premier and Head of BC Public Service. McDonald left to join Plant at Heenan Blaikie.
    • Seckel moves from Deputy AG and replaces McDonald as Head of BC Public Service.
    • Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill, who worked on the Dec ’03 raids, is suspended and represented by Heenan Blaikie. In Oct ’07 their offices are broken into. Details on Battershill’s suspension never disclosed.
    • Victoria constable Ravinder Dosanjh was suspended by Battershill in Dec ’03 for connections to Mandeep Singh Sandhu.
    • Sandhu is investigated for drug conspiracy and trafficking. Sandhu was one of the “Basi’s Boys” who could quickly sign-up supporters.
    • The Sandhu investigation led the RCMP and Victoria police to raid the offices in the BC Legislature, Dec’03.
    • David Loukidelis is the Freedom of Information Commissioner! and replaces Seckel as Deputy AG! with decision-making control over confidential documents!
    • Graham Whitmarsh is Deputy Minister of Finance replacing Paul Taylor – who moves to ICBC and is friend of Brian Kieran, lobbyist involved in Pilothouse.
    • Whitmarsh worked with Gary Collins at Harmony Airlines until 2006.
    • Whitmarsh and Loukidelis make the $6 million dollar deal Oct ’10.
    • Collins resigned from Ministry of Finance in 2004 went to Harmony, then to Belkorp Industries where he “identifies new corporate opportunities.
    • Collins serves on the board of the CHILD Foundation along with Peter Armstrong of Rocky Mountaineer fame.

    • Back to Geoff Plant for a moment and his involvement in justifying another Liberal scam – in Aug ’10 he represented a coalition of business “leaders” and argued in court that the petition against the HST was invalid. They were ruled against. The players included John Allan (Council of Forest Industries), Pierre Gratton (Mining Association), John Winter (BC Chamber of Commerce), Rick Jeffery (Coast Forest Products), and Philip Hochstein (Independent Contractors and Business Association).
    • Hochstein was appointed to the board of Port Metro Vancouver in Feb ’11 and in Mar’12 paid for attack ads against the NDP. (Is Hochstein leading BC’s version of SuperPACs?)
    • I haven’t even looked into the privatization of BC’s forests by Rich Coleman, his brother Stan, Western Forest Products, Weyerhaeuser, and Mike deJong;
    • nor mentioned back room operator Patrick Kinsella, David McLean of CN Rail, Transportation minister Judith Reid, Ken Dobell (how did he get those confidential documents?) or Martyn Brown (Campbell’s “I don’t remember” Chief of staff).
    • nor peered into the pocket of Coleman where we’ll find the travelling portfolio of BC Lottery Corporation that is most dear to his heart.

    Look at the hornets nest that is disturbed by Geoff Plant’s 2 cents!
    The province of British Columbia has been sold up the river by the BC Liberals and their “stakeholders” since 2001.
    And we’re supposed to be afraid of what the NDP would do if in control?!?
    Voters can be really stupid sometimes.

    Thanks Ian for your strength and persistence!

  9. RossK says:


    Excellent, and valuable, recap. Thanks very much.

    I would take a bit of an issue with your comment about the smarts of voters however.

    After all, in a week where the light has been shone very brightly back on this matter by the actions of people (ie. Mr. van Dongen and the Auditor General) that should matter to them, the heaviest hitters in our local proMedia are busying themselves telling us all about the terrible egregiosity of folks who receive the equivalent of parking tickets and relentless ‘war’ campaigners who are actually bald-faced liars when it comes to the matter at hand.


    What is the average voter who sees, hears and reads these heavy-hitters at every turn supposed to do?

    I know I am being rhetorical here, but I honestly think that this is the root of the problem.



  10. Leah says:

    Great article Ian – thank you.

    Ross, I agree with you about the root of the problem. MSM is really the only source the general public has for issues that affect them on a daily basis…which is why I’m sure advertisers are more than willing to make up the short-fall the papers in BC are suffering right now. It’s in the interests of business to make sure people don’t know the truth…it’s in the interest of MSM to make sure people don’t know the truth.

    Bloggers like Ian, Norm, Alex, Laila, NVG, Koot…and Grant, as well as yourself are our only hope of finding truth right now…but how do we make each and every one of you “MSM”…in hopes of waking up the sleeping population?

  11. bewlay says:

    Not an issue folks please move along Bill Boring has revived and is necromancing the skytrain evasion bombshell….wow….awesome Bill!

    Dubious opinions based thinly on truthiness surely there must be an award for that? Like a Senator seat…when the ratings bottom out?

  12. John's Aghast says:

    Hey tf,
    You say it was Deputy Attorney General, Allan Seckel who appointed Berardino as Special Prosecutor.
    Geoff Plant says it was the Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Bob Gillen who did the appointing.
    Does it matter? Is there perhaps an Assistant to the Assistant D.A.G. who will arise from the slime to futher obfuscate the story?

  13. tf says:

    Thanks for reading my loooong comment. I’m not sure why it’s important to me to try to keep track of all those people and their multi-layered insider connections but it’s interesting to keep track of them and see where their names pop up and in what context. At the moment Phil Hochstein is the most interesting – his name pops up in the most “interesting” places.

    And you know, putting the blame on the media relieves the voter of our responsibilities.

    I’m just an ordinary person – no great education, no great business acumen nor political experience – but I can smell the collusion and corruption immediately. I knew what CClark represented as soon as she announced her run as leader. I didn’t need anyone in the press to tell me.

    I know that some people have trouble getting behind the NDP but I also know what I value: that is honesty, open government, ethical behaviour and making choices for the good of all and not just to benefit your own pockets. I can’t expect the media to tell me what to value.

    That’s why I say voters are stupid – a majority have continued to vote for the BC Liberals – even after the sale of BC Rail, the tearing up of contracts, a late-night arrest in Hawaii – the voters continued to give them a majority.

    To me this suggests that the majority doesn’t know how to value the common good. Maybe that’s not stupidity, maybe it’s just selfishness.

    Thanks again!

  14. RossK says:

    Fair enough tf – thanks.


    For those interested, Mr. Geoff Plant has responded to my question and both Paul Willcock’s and I have weighed in on that response….The details are here….


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