Campbell ordered leak in BC Rail sale: defence
Premier Gordon Campbell instructed a former government aide now accused of corruption to leak confidential reports on the controversial sale of BC Rail, a defence lawyer alleged Wednesday.
Kevin McCullough told B.C. Supreme Court that his client Bobby Virk's refusal to take such action meant his job as a ministerial aide was threatened.
"Mr. Virk declined and rebuffed the premier and told him that he could not leak the reports because he was under a confidentiality agreement?" McCullough asked Martyn Brown, the premier's chief of staff.
Brown called the accusations levelled at both Campbell and himself "ludicrous."
"I did not do that, and I doubt very much the premier would have had anywhere close to a conversation and he certainly, never in my wildest imagination, would ever counsel such a thing," Brown said.
When McCullough suggested Brown told Virk his job was "on thin ice" for not complying, Brown said he didn't recall such a conversation and added Virk had been doing "a good job" at the time.
The confidential reports, which sought the opinions of railway shippers on which company should buy the BC Rail line, were commissioned by the government, the jury heard.
McCullough said that according to the documents, the shippers seemed to prefer CP Rail as the new owner, but CN eventually won the bid in November 2003.
"It would be a problem for the government if their own internal reports that they contracted to get showed that CP was the shippers' choice rather than CN?" McCullough asked Brown, who disagreed.
Virk is charged with fraud and breach of trust in relation to the $1-billion sale of the Crown-owned asset.
McCullough spent a fourth day alleging both Brown and the premier carried out several steps around the privatization sale to ensure CN Rail would eventually win the bid because "the fix was in" from day one.
McCullough alleged Brown used his slogan "problem-solution-benefit," when asking Virk to leak the documents, saying it was a political strategy to put unfavourable information into the limelight so the government would have control over the response.
McCullough also told the jury that his client tried to warn the premier's office about breaking an election promise not to sell BC Rail, but was ignored.
McCullough suggested his client was worried about fallout from hiring CIBC World Markets to act as financial adviser during the selloff of the provincial asset because the government had made an election promise to put all large contracts up for tender.
"Virk came to you and told you that CIBC World Markets was going to get this untendered contract for millions of dollars and that they were a friend, a close donating friend, of the government," McCullough told Brown.
"I don't remember that at all," Brown replied, saying he didn't even know that CIBC donated cash to the BC Liberals.
The long-delayed trial was thrown into uncertainty Monday when the judge told jurors that it would last more than 10 months instead of the original six-week timetable. That initially raised the possibility of a mistrial if not enough jurors were able to change their schedules.
Also accused of fraud and breach of trust in the case is Dave Basi, another former ministerial aide. His cousin, Aneal Basi, a former government communications worker, is charged with money laundering.
The Crown alleges Virk and Dave Basi leaked confidential government documents in relation to the BC Rail sale in exchange for cash, trips and meals.
Charges were filed after a raid at the provincial legislature in December 2003 that saw RCMP officers carting away dozens of boxes of evidence.
On Wednesday, McCullough also put it to Brown that he knew Virk shared his concerns with then-transportation minister Judith Reid, his boss at the time, and with then-finance minister Gary Collins, Basi's boss. Brown said that wasn't the case.
Brown also said he did not recall Virk warning him of "boondoggle BC Rail severance payments" that were being handed to executives of BC Rail.
"Do you not recall him saying to you that this will be the `cherry on the cake,' we've got to do something about it?" McCullough asked.
"No I certainly don't. It's a colourful term, but notwithstanding I don't remember it," Brown said.