01/30/2013 03:05 EST | Updated 04/01/2013 05:12 EDT

Bill Belsey, BC Liberals VP, Lobbying Investigation Launched

VANCOUVER - The B.C. Liberal party's vice-president is being investigated for failing to register as a lobbyist before contacting several cabinet ministers on behalf of his Chinese-investor client.

Records from the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists in B.C. show Bill Belsey contacted Jobs Minister Pat Bell, Environment Minister Terry Lake and Forests Minister Steve Thomson, and reported that contact on Dec. 5.

However, it wasn't until Dec. 10 that Belsey registered as a consultant lobbyist for businessman Ritao Ni, who owns Sun Wave Investments Inc., a real estate investment firm.

"We are actively investigating whether Mr. Belsey was lobbying and if he was lobbying whether he was registered as required," said Mary Carlson, deputy registrar of lobbyists.

Carlson said penalties of up to $25,000 can be levied against anyone who violates the law by failing to register before lobbying the government.

In November, Jobs Minister Pat Bell was at the centre of controversy for sending Belsey an internal email involving the site of the former Skeena Cellulose pulp mill in Prince Rupert.

He said Wednesday that he met with Ni during a 2011 trip to China as part of a forestry delegation.

"With regard to Mr. Belsey, I have asked my office to do an exhaustive search of my calendar and the last time I met with him was May 31, 2011," he said in a statement.

"Prior to that my last meeting with Mr. Belsey was Feb. 8, 2011 in my capacity as Minister of Forests, Mines and Lands."

The mill that's been closed for more than a decade was seized by the city in 2009 because Sun Wave refused to pay taxes after promising to reopen it.

The company took the city to court, and the legal battles is continuing as millions of dollars in maintenance costs mount for the north coast community.

Belsey did not return calls or respond to an email request for an interview.

On Nov. 20, the former North Coast MLA registered as a lobbyist for the Gixaala Nation, which is considering development on its territory.

Also on HuffPost

#LibShip - Banish The Titanic Metaphors