One of the crime scenes

Friday, May 05, 2006

The View from Ontario

The raid on the legislature was noticed by media across Canada. After all, it isn't everyday that the RCMP show up at a legislature on recess armed with search warrants and proceed to haul boxes of documents away to potentially be evidence in criminal proceedings. In the early days much of the attention from Ontario was focused on organized crime, drugs and ties between the provincial ministerial aides (Basi and Virk) and the Federal Liberals.


With the following headlines and excerpts I'll attempt to convey a glimpse of how the affair played out in the Toronto Star and its Metroland family of newpapers for the first couple of months immediately following the raid.


Toronto Star - Dec 30, 2003

Drug probe behind raid on B.C.'s legislature
No arrests made, but one aide fired, second suspended Cabinet members aren't implicated.



Daily Mercury - Dec 31, 2003

Analysts say B.C. premier should explain reason for aides' departure after police raid
Gordon Campbell needs to give the public more information, Norman Ruff, a political scientist at the University of Victoria, said Tuesday. But Ruff felt it wasn't necessarily essential for Campbell and Gary Collins to return from their Hawaiian vacations.



The Record - Jan 2, 2004

Fired aide not so powerful, B.C. cabinet minister says
B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins interrupted his holiday to put out a political fire caused when a senior aide's legislature office was raided by police as part of an ongoing drug and commercial crime probe.



Daily Mercury - Jan 3, 2004

Judge adjourns bid to unseal warrants used in B.C. raids



The Record - Jan 8, 2004

Aide accepts severance package after office raid
The government has faced a storm of speculation in the wake of the Dec. 28 raids on the offices of David Basi, ministerial assistant to Finance Minister Gary Collins, and Robert Virk, assistant to Transportation Minister Judith Reid



The Record - Jan 16, 2004

Business as usual, insist beleaguered Liberals
The government has faced a storm of speculation in the wake of the Dec. 28 raids on the offices of David Basi, ministerial assistant to Finance Minister Gary Collins, and Robert Virk, assistant to Transportation Minister Judith Reid


Daily Mercury - Jan 24, 2004

Judge orders publication ban while considering warrants



Toronto Star - Feb 24, 2004

PM's ticking time bomb
In fact, as Liberals here admit privately, the B.C. business is a time bomb for the Prime Minister. Unlike the Quebec sponsorship scandal, it speaks to something for which [Paul Martin] cannot escape responsibility - the ruthless, and at times dubious, tactics he used to oust Jean Chretien, take over the Liberal party, and become prime minister.
One member turned out to be a dog that had been dead for five years. But he, too, was welcomed to the Liberal party.He even received a Christmas card from the-then jolly but now very beleaguered Martin.



Of course now Paul Martin is on his way to retirement, from politics at least, so his involvement in this affair doesn't seem so important anymore. Just another case of poltics as usual? To those of us in BC though who think that the wholesale sell off of our assets should be stopped, learning that a process that is wrong to start with is also corrupt makes a bad situation worse. If comparatively lowly ministerial aides can wield enough influence to be bought, the only question is how much higher is the price to buy their bosses.


Shortly after the information in the warrants was mostly released and the charges added on Basi relating to the ALR scam in Sooke, I heard a minister on the radio discrediting these new charges. His position was that Basi didn't have enough influence to affect a decision by the ALR. I tend to agree with him, which leads to the question of to whose ear in cabinet or government Basi had access. There seems to be no question that Basi was receiving money and other considerations, lobbyists and con men don't usually give away money for nothing.    More

Toronto Star February 24, 2004

PM's ticking time bomb

Police raid on B.C. 'Basi Boys' could turn embarrassing spotlight on Martin's tactics in ousting of Chrétien

By Thomas Walkom

The most unpredictable element of a political scandal is its spillover.
Even if Prime Minister Paul Martin is able to persuade most Canadians that he had nothing to do with the Quebec sponsorship affair, the controversy may remind voters about other matters the Liberals would prefer forgotten.

One such matter is simmering away in British Columbia, sparked by post-Christmas police raids on the homes and offices of key Martin organizers. Up to now, the raids have been virtually ignored by media east of the Rockies, as of little interest to anyone outside B.C.In fact, as Liberals here admit privately, the B.C. business is a time bomb for the Prime Minister. Unlike the Quebec sponsorship scandal, it speaks to something for which Martin cannot escape responsibility ú the ruthless, and
at times dubious, tactics he used to oust Jean Chrétien, take over the Liberal party, and become prime minister.

The B.C. events surfaced publicly on Dec. 28 when RCMP and Victoria police raided the offices of two political aides in the provincial Liberal government.Police said the raids were connected to a 20-month investigation into drugs and organized crime.
More tellingly, as Victoria police chief Paul Battershill told reporters a few days later, the raids were connected to allegations of "money laundering and proceeds of crime."

Initially, the media concentrated on the provincial angle. That made some sense since the two aides, David Basi and his brother-in-law Robert Virk, were important figures in Premier Gordon Campbell's government.But it soon became clear that the police were casting a wider net. Officers searched the offices of two key Martinites Bruce Clark, the Prime Minister's chief fundraiser on the west coast, and Eric Bornman, communications director for the federal Liberals.

As well, police visited Mark Marissen, B.C. campaign chair for Martin's leadership, and asked him to hand over what he later called important documents he may have inadvertently received.

Most attention, however, focused on Basi. In addition to his provincial role, Basi, too, was a key figure in Martin's successful campaign to take over the federal Liberal party.Described as a bright and energetic organizer, Basi recruited thousands of new Liberals -- many from his own Indo-Canadian community -- to capture riding associations for Martin.

Known as Basi's Boys, the new members flooded ridings. In one particularly high-profile case, they took over the Liberal constituency association of then natural resources minister and Chrétien supporter Herb Dhaliwal.In another instance, the Basi Boys successfully had their people appointed to the executive of the Esquimault-Juan de Fuca Liberal riding association.

That won little public attention until early December when, as part of their money-laundering investigation, police raided the home of one of those Basi Boy appointees.Around the same time, police also uncovered a marijuana growing operation at a Vancouver Island property owned by Basi but rented to someone else.

The politically sensitive nature of the case has made it unusually opaque. Search warrants authorizing the Liberal raids -- as well as any information backing them -- have been sealed by the courts.As a result, it's impossible to know the exact nature of the allegations involved.It is worth pointing out, however, that so far no one involved in any of these raids, including Basi, has been charged with anything.

Nonetheless, all of this is potentially bad news for Martin. In the midst of an ethics scandal, it reminds the public that his capture of the Liberal crown, and hence the prime ministership, involved tactics that were hardly glorious.

To join the Liberals and vote for the party leader, a prospective member must sign a form and pay $10. Under party rules, that fee is not supposed to be paid by someone else.It sounds simple. But in practice, as Liberals themselves admit, various factions end-run the rules by engaging in massive sign-ups in which organizers, rather than the prospective members, pay the $10 fees.

That means that the faction with the most blank membership forms and the most money can win. Indeed, one of the keys to Martin's success over Chrétien was his ability to change the party rules in key provinces so that -- up until last February -- Martinites had access to the largest number of blank forms.All that was needed then was money for the $10 fees. In B.C., where Liberal membership skyrocketed from 3,000 to about 40,000, that meant about $370,000.Some of this undoubtedly came from the new members themselves. But clearly, some did not. In one riding where the Basi Boys had been active, the Vancouver Sun found some cases of duplicate memberships and others where new members denied paying their own fees.

One member turned out to be a dog that had been dead for five years. But he, too, was welcomed to the Liberal party.He even received a Christmas card from the-then jolly but now very beleaguered Martin.

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