Van Dongen’s Question: An illegal inducement in the BC Rail trial?

Over a month ago, former BC Liberal Attorney General Geoff Plant argued that the $6 million payment authorized by the Campbell government that led to the sudden end of the BC Rail trial was done perfectly.

According to Plant the deal skirted the legal problem of inducement while ending up somehow with guilty pleas. “What is clear,” Plant argued, “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.”

Yesterday, John van Dongen put the lie to that with his question to BC Liberal Attorney General Shirley Bond.

Here’s the transcript:

GRANTING OF INDEMNITIES
IN B.C. RAIL COURT CASE

J. van Dongen: Mr. Speaker, on May 2, I asked the Attorney General which section of the Financial Administration Act legally authorized the Deputy Minister of Finance to forgive and extinguish Basi and Virk’s $6 million legal fees liability, given the specific limitations imposed by section 18. The Attorney General did not answer my question.

Two days later an unattributed e-mail was sent by the Ministry of Justice to the media “on background only.” Contrary to the October 2010 public statement by Deputy Attorney General Loukidelis, the Justice Ministry e-mail claimed there was no legal liability prior to the guilty pleas. The e-mail goes on to state: “Section 72 provided the legal authority to modify the Basi and Virk indemnities by removing the repayment conditions.”

My question to the Attorney General: can the Attorney General confirm to this House that section 72 of the Financial Administration Act did in fact provide the legal authority to remove the repayment obligations that were originally agreed to in the Basi-Virk indemnity agreements?

Hon. S. Bond: Yes.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

J. van Dongen: The Justice Ministry e-mail states that section 72 of the act provides the government with the legal authority to grant indemnities. That authority includes the setting of terms and conditions. But then the e-mail advances the notion that the authority of section 72 to grant indemnities on terms and conditions also includes the authority to change or remove conditions. There is no specific authority written into section 72 to change or remove obligations from indemnity agreements.

There is a simple way for the Attorney General to earn the public trust on the issue of statutory authority. Rather than sending an anonymous e-mail, will the Attorney General release today the written legal opinion that persuaded her that section 72 legally provided the authority to remove the obligations that Basi and Virk repay their $6 million of legal fees?

Hon. S. Bond: To the member opposite: the government does have legal authority to grant indemnities under section 72 of the Financial Administration Act. The authority includes the setting of terms and conditions that could, as in the case of Basi-Virk, include a condition that you would be able to modify. So in fact, the authority to grant indemnities on terms and conditions includes the authority to change or remove those conditions.

***

Bond claims that the section of the Financial Administration Act that gives the government the authority to pay the legal expenses of a government employee also gave the government the authority to change the legally binding terms of the specific indemnity agreements covering the Basi Virk charges.

And Bond agrees that her ministry used that authority.

They threw government policy out the window and removed the clause that said the indemnity was void in the instance of a guilty plea.  The altered indemnity was a legally binding agreement that waived the $6 million of debt owed by the defendants to the government, who had covered their legal fees.

And the ministry admits they did that prior to the guilty pleas.

Van Dongen, referenced a ministry email that says the indemnity was changed prior to the guilty pleas and that meant the defendants’ $6 million liability was waved before their guilty pleas:  “Contrary to the October 2010 public statement by Deputy Attorney General Loukidelis, the Justice Ministry e-mail claimed there was no legal liability prior to the guilty pleas.”

Attorney General Bond agrees that’s what happened.  The change to the indemnity was completed prior to the  guilty pleas utilizing the government’s perceived power to amend indemnities.

BC Attorney General Geoff Plant argued on his website that such an arrangement would be wrong:  “What is clear,” he claimed, “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.”

But what is now clear is that Plant was wrong about the timing.  There was a legally binding deal delivered by the Criminal Justice Branch prior to the guilty pleas.

Using his own logic doesn’t that mean the altered indemnity was an illegal inducement to plead guilty?

Or to be more precise, doesn’t that mean the BC Liberals used $6 million of taxpayers money to illegally shut down the BC Rail trial?

This entry was posted in BC Liberals, BC Politics, BC Rail. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Van Dongen’s Question: An illegal inducement in the BC Rail trial?

  1. Arleigh Chase says:

    I think you’re spot on, Ian. Clearly, there was an inducement to plead guilty. Timing alone supports this. First some bureaucrat in the Attorney-General’s ministry decides to free Basi and Virk from all legal liabilities and then, mere days later, the two defendants decide to plead guilty. If we follow Bond’s fable as to the timeline, then clearly once the indemnity was granted Basi and Virk had absolutely no incentive to plead guilty. After all, if you’re freed from all financial obligations arising from your legal bills wouldn’t you decide to fight till the end of time to regain your reputation?

    In addition, I can’t remember which blog hosted it, but a recent commentator questioned whether any bureaucrat would ever have the outright chutzpah to write off six million dollars owed to the government on his or her own authority. I worked at the City of Vancouver for awhile for some of the most arrogant policy planners around and I know they would never have simply taken on that kind of authority on their own without political approval. The consequences were utterly obvious to all civic employees. Their heads would have been offered up to the Mayor on a silver platter and they quite possibly would face jail time.

  2. Ron S. says:

    Bada bing bada boooooooom! Did I just hear Bonds jaw hitting the floor?

  3. PG says:

    Not only should the legal agreement be released, shouldn’t the actual deal also be released?

    Great piece Ian. Well researched and written. Glad Michael Smyth picked up on it today as well.

  4. Platter97 says:

    Shirley Bond’s jaw has been on the floor all week in the Legislature .. have you not seen the grim look on her face during question period and during debates of the various bills she’s been involved in? Well “in fact Mr Speaker” as she would say, many BC Liberals are looking the same way when you watch the legislature channel lately.

    A number of issues/things for the BC Libs haven’t been looking too good for them for quite some time now, despite some of their expert ability to tell bold face lies.

  5. James King says:

    It’s too bad BC Mary isn’t around today… The key now is to follow the money and find out just exactly what went on prior to the granting of the indemnity….

  6. Julie says:

    Campbell’s theft and corrupt sale of the BCR is called, the sleaziest crime in Canadian history. The trial a laughable joke. Held in a corrupt court. Presided over, by a corrupt judge, who permitted brain dead witnesses. Things were about to heat up for Campbell in that trial. I suppose Basi and Virk either had to plead guilty, or go to prison. Did they not say, if they kept their mouths shut, they would be taken care of? They most certainly were taken care of, by the tax payers.

    Campbell and everyone else involved in that crime, really needs to be put in one of Harper’s new stalags. Same as the BC HST. Harper, Campbell and Hansen had the papers signed and delivered, back to Hansen’s desk, long before the BC May election, Caught in a lie, Hansen finally had to admit it.

    Strangely, Christy wants nothing to do with the theft and sale of a, BCR investigation.

    Sometime back…Basi and Virk seemed full of bitter anger at Campbell. They said, they were only following orders.

  7. Norm Farrell says:

    I knew Geoff Plant’s father, long ago. when I was was a Liberal operative directed by Paul Plant, working in the evening from his offices because “WATS” lines were valuable to anyone selling a particular political story. From everything that Paul Plant said to me, he and his progenitor Ralph Plant would be disgusted by Geoff’s activities. From what I knew, Paul was a person loaded with integrity. Apparently, that is not passed through the genes with certainty.

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