NDP accuse Liberals of gag deal in BC Rail trial
The opposition New Democrats have accused the British Columbia Liberals of protecting political interests over fallout from the legislature raid trial with $6 million in "hush money," a claim Premier Gordon Campbell denies.
Dave Basi and Bobby Virk pleaded guilty at the political corruption trial earlier this week. They also signed non-disclosure agreements barring them from speaking about their time in government as part of the plea bargain.
The men admitted to passing along confidential information to one of the bidders around the sale of BC Rail in a $1 billion privatization.
The former ministerial aides in the finance and transportation ministries received cash and tickets and flights to a NFL football game in exchange.
NDP Leader Carole James has called on the province to reveal all details of the arrangement struck, saying taxpayer money was used to keep the pair quiet.
The government revealed after the guilty pleas it paid $6 million in legal fees for the two men, after the Legal Services branch decided Basi and Virk had nothing left to give.
Campbell washed his hands of any involvement in the prosecution of two "criminals," saying Wednesday his party had no impact on the matter.
"I had absolutely no knowledge of, nothing to do with, was not given any information about this prior to when you got it," he told reporters. "I think that's exactly as it should be...that this would be totally independent."
James said the deal raises more questions than it answers.
"To average British Columbians, it strikes as a reprehensible deal and a brazen assault on public trust," James said in a news release.
She asked if the gag deal was made to avoid political embarrassment.
"Was a non-disclosure agreement signed in order to buy silence from the accused and now convicted criminals in the BC Rail corruption trial? Who in government made the offer and what role did it play in arriving at the plea deal?"
Government officials have yet to reveal the cost of funding the special prosecutor on the case.
Campbell distanced himself further from James' questions, suggesting instead the punishment for the men could have been harsher.
"I may have personal opinions about that, but we ask the courts to make those decisions on behalf of all of us in society, that's exactly what has taken place here and that's how it should be."
With their unexpected pleas, Basi and Virk brought the protracted trial in B.C. Supreme Court to a halt on Monday. They were given two years of house arrest.
In their agreed statement of facts, they said they did not obtain consent of their superiors to demand or accept benefits.