NEWS

BC Rail legal fee details deal sought by auditor general

09/11/2012 04:19 EDT | Updated 11/11/2012 05:12 EST
B.C.'s Auditor General is in court this week demanding the government release the details of its deal to pay $6 million in legal fees for two Liberal government aides convicted in the BC Rail sale.

David Basi and Bob Virk pleaded guilty in October 2010 to breach of trust and receiving benefits in connection with the 2003 sale of BC Rail.

The surprise guilty pleas brought an end to the lengthy trial, and the two former ministerial aides were sentenced to spend the next 24 months under house arrest.

Since then, Auditor General John Doyle has been fighting to get the details of the indemnity agreements publicly released, along with the details of other deals reached with other government employees.

Conservative MLA John van Dongen, who is an intervenor on the case, says it's been a long fight to get the information.

"There's been a pattern of resistance. There's been an unwillingness and a lack of forthrightness to answer the questions."

He hopes the court will order the details released after hearings wrap up.

"What I want to see is accountability and transparency in a meaningful way."

For its part, the government says it wants to release details of the legal fee deals but because it involves lawyer-client confidentiality, they believe a court order is needed first.

Legislature raid led to charges

The charges against Basi and Virk were filed in 2004 after an unprecedented search warrant served at the provincial legislature in December 2003 that saw police carting away dozens of boxes of evidence.

The trial began in May 2010 after years of procedural delays. Basi and Virk were accused of fraud and breach of trust for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for inside government information about the $1-billion sale of BC Rail.

The Crown argued they leaked confidential government information to a lobbyist who worked for Denver-based OmniTrax, one of three companies vying for BC Rail, which was eventually sold to CN Rail in November 2003.

At the time, former attorney general Mike de Jong said the B.C. government's legal services branch recommended the province not try to recover the millions of dollars spent by lawyers defending the accused because the two former aides simply have no money of their own.

Last fall, an independent report by UBC president Stephen Toope concluded it was highly unusual for the government to pay the huge legal bills of former political aides, but stopped short of condemning the government's handling of the case.

MORE:cbcNews