Basi had prospects to help with $6-million bill
New questions are emerging about why taxpayers footed the $6-million defence bill for the BC Rail trial when at least one defendant had prospects for paying his own way.
On Monday, Attorney General Mike de Jong said that the B.C. government had no choice but to pay defence costs for former government aides Dave Basi and Bobby Virk.
"There is no prospect of collecting anything further, so at the end of the day, those weighty defence costs are also borne by the taxpayer," he said.
But documents show that in 2006, the government registered a mortgage on Basi's Victoria home after agreeing to advance money for his legal fees. The property has been assessed at $518,000, and the government believes it could have recovered more than $300,000 by taking it over.
Instead of trying to recover at least some of that money by forcing the sale of the home, the government decided to cover the entire legal bill as part of a plea bargain agreement that ended the trial this week.
That news doesn't sit well with the opposition New Democrats.
"Now we find out they were going after the house and then they changed their mind and decided they weren't going to go after anything and they'd pay for the whole $6 million. Well, the public deserves to know," NDP leader Carole James told CTV News.
De Jong refused to answers questions Thursday about why the government chose not to foreclose and get some money back.
"[It was] a decision-making process that was purposely kept separate from the political arm of government," he told reporters.
Basi and Virk pleaded guilty to peddling confidential information to one of the bidders in the sale of BC Rail. Legal experts say the government's decision to cover legal fees at the criminal trial was highly unusual.
"These two guys were working for government, but they were also working on the political side of government, not the regular public service. So, there's an argument to be made that really it's the Liberal party that should be paying the fees"," criminologist Rob Gordon said.
The NDP is now calling for an independent third party to look at all aspects of the deal.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Mike Killeen