Man who bribed aide in BC Rail scandal OK to practise law
Dave Basi, centre, and his lawyer Michael Bolton, far right, Bobby Virk, lower right, and Aneal Basi, 2nd left, and his lawyer Erin Dance, left, leave B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday October 18, 2010. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, August 23, 2011 4:48PM PDT
A former British Columbia lobbyist and political power-broker who admitted bribing a Liberal ministerial aide to get government information in the BC Rail scandal has been cleared to practise law in Ontario.
The Law Society of Upper Canada held three days of hearings in the case of Erik Bornmann earlier this year to determine whether he is of good character to become a lawyer.
The society decided this week that Bornmann has transformed from a self-described arrogant, amoral and immoral person to someone humbled by his remorse after police raided his office and his life became a "nightmare."
"There are so many layers of regret and shame to my conduct, conduct that has led me here today," Bornmann testified when asked how his last six years working as a student lawyer in a clinic for disadvantaged people has affected his character.
"I get sick thinking about it," he said. "It's as if what I did set off a chain reaction. Things just kept exploding for six years, seven years, eight years, leaving this gigantic mess.
"In the midst of all this as well, my mom passed away," he said. "I know it must have been killing her on the inside that this is what I had done."
But Bornmann's remorse failed to move one of three Law Society members, who said the public needs to be confident that lawyers are people of unquestionable integrity.
Bornmann, now 35, helped the RCMP in the prosecution of former B.C. ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bobby Virk after a raid on their Victoria legislature offices on Dec. 28, 2003.
Bornmann's home office was also raided, and on Jan. 6, 2004, he acquired a lawyer and negotiated an agreement with the B.C. Crown so he would be spared possible criminal prosecution.
Bornmann obtained a law degree at the University of B.C. in 2005 and moved to Toronto, where he applied for admittance to the Law Society. Its requirement of good character triggered the hearings, which were held in March and April.
Two law firms refused to hire Bornmann after he revealed that he may appear as a Crown witness in a criminal case in Vancouver, and he was let go from a third firm when his past came to light.
Last October, Basi and Virk pleaded guilty to two counts each of breach of trust and accepting rewards or benefits. They were sentenced to two years of house arrest for leaking government information to Bornmann.
Charges of money laundering against Basi's cousin, Aneal Basi, were dropped when the two other men's pleas brought an abrupt end to the case. Bornmann, who was to be the Crown's key witness, never testified.
Bornmann was a lobbyist for a Victoria company called Pilothouse. It had been hired by Denver-based OmniTRAX, one of three bidders vying for BC Rail, which the Liberal government decided in 2002 to privatize and sell.
Bornmann told the Law Society hearing that between 2001 and 2002, he paid about $1,500 in small cash disbursements to Dave Basi, ministerial aide to then-finance minister Gary Collins.
From March 2002 to December 2003, Bornmann said he made larger, intermittent payments to Dave Basi, through a scheme that involved writing cheques totalling almost $26,000 to the man's cousin. The money would later be transferred to Basi.
Bornmann also told the hearing that he and his partner, Brian Kieran, regularly took Dave Basi and Virk for dinner at upscale restaurants and expensed the meals to OmniTRAX. They also flew the men and their wives to Denver to watch a football game.
"Both Basi and Virk expressed their interest in working for federal politicians and believed that Bornmann, with his knowledge and contacts in (former prime minister) Paul Martin's leadership campaign, could assist them," says the Law Society decision involving Bornmann.
In exchange for money, dinners, the trip and introductions, Basi and Virk supplied secret government information to Bornmann and Pilothouse, assisting OmniTRAX's bid for BC Rail.
Among the disclosed government documents was one marked "For presentation to cabinet for decision," dated July 23, 2003.
"As a result of providing these benefits to Basi, Bornmann also received the collateral benefit of Basi's loyalty in political matters," says the Law Society decision.
Still, the Law Society said that while an applicant's past conduct is important, it is just one of several factors to be considered when it comes to a person's present character.
Basi and Virk were under RCMP surveillance for unrelated matters when police discovered the pair were handing over confidential information to Bornmann.
CN Rail won the bid for BC Rail in November 2003, a month before the police raids.