It was a case that cost BC taxpayers more than $6 million.
Two ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bobby Virk, were charged with fraud and breach of trust in connection with the $1 billion privatization sale of BC Rail in 2003.
The pair eventually pleaded guilty to corruption charges, and the Liberal government wrote off all legal fees around the case.
Global News has acquired the exclusive agreement documents between the government and Basi and Virk.
Its contents waive repayment of the 6 million dollars in legal fees incurred by both.
It says the province will provide Basi and Virk “a complete release from liability and indebtedness.”
John van Dongen is a former Liberal cabinet minister and currently running as an independent in Abbotsford.
He has followed the case closely.
He’s previously brought up questions based on a rarely seen indemnity agreement from 2005, where Basi and Virk’s legal costs would be covered by taxpayers.
The agreement “constitutes a loan,” it states.
Under the agreement, Basi and Virk would be required to re-pay the money if they were convicted.
When the two plead guilty – hence convicted of corruption – they were excused from having to repay any of the advance.
“I think the issue here is government ethics,” says van Dongen. “That is the big issue. This transaction never passed the smell test.”
Under B.C. law, any payment over $100,000 has to be approved by cabinet.
In this case, the payment of 6 million dollar in legal fees, funded by taxpayers, was agreed to by two bureaucrats.
The question being asked is – under what legal authority they made that decision?
The province’s finance minister and former attorney general Mike de Jong says the answer is a simple one.
“It is a balance between accountability on the fiscal side of the equation, but preserving absolute prosecutorial independence from political interference,” says de Jong. “And this is the case where those two considerations seem to intersect.”
The master agreement also forbids Basi and Virk to disclose any information to the media, meaning the public can’t get the full details on how a taxpayer funded 6 million dollar loan magically disappeared.
“It is really important that both leaders in this election are going to be required to commit to a specific public inquiry into this $6-million write-off of Basi and Virk legal fees,” says van Dongen. “The attorney generals that have been involved need to be questioned as well.”