First off, a mea culpa/apology to a concerned reader who put me onto this awhile back, way before Mr. Van Dongen asked his questions about the Six Million Dollar Deal in the legislature last week.
After that, I fussed and fiddled and then, finally, had a post all ready to go last night.
In the end, however, just before bed in fact, I pulled back because I hadn't actually seen the document that I'm going to tell you about below.
But said reader, who is really a concerned citizen extraordinaire, sent me a copy of the document earlier today by Mojo-Wire.
So, here goes.....
The document I want to tell you about is actually a letter that our concerned reader received from a British Columbia provincial government official.
The letter starts like this:
"Your email of April 12, 2011, received by the Ministry of Finance, has been forwarded to this ministry (of the Attorney General) for a response. I am responding on behalf of the Attorney General."
Before I go any further I'd like to return to a passage from the 'Statement' by Deputy Attorney General David Loukidelis that was released on Oct 20, 2010, just days after the Six Million Dollar Deal went down that suddenly stopped the Railgate trial, dead, in its tracks as former Finance Minister Gary Collins was getting set to take the witness stand.
Here is what Mr. Loukidelis, in part, wrote at that time:
"...On October 5, 2010, it came to the attention of the Legal Services Branch, Ministry of Attorney General, that the special prosecutor (Mr. William Berardino) had proposed resolution of the prosecutions (of Mess'rs Basi and Virk) through guilty pleas.
Discussions then took place between the Legal Services Branch and defence counsel, including with respect to their clients' ability to repay their legal costs. (The indemnities provided that they would have do so unless acquitted on all counts).
Legal Services Branch referred the matter to me and to the Deputy Minister of Finance (Mr. Graham Whitmarsh). The Deputy Minister of Finance has authority under the Financial Administration Act respecting this matter. He and I considered the issue. A major consideration was the relativey small amounts that might be recovered from Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk compared to the millions of additional dollars it would cost the government to continue to fund defence, prosecution and court-related costs through to the completion of the trial, and to fund any appeals, with no guarantee of convictions.
Based on the above, in our respective capacities the Deputy Minister of Finance (Graham Whitmarsh) and I decided to release Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk from their liability to repay (legal costs). I communicated that decision to the Attorney General on October 8, 2010...."
Here's the thing.
What Mr. Loukidelis, infers (in my reading of his statement at least), but does not state explicitly, is that Mess'rs Basi and Virk were released of their liability to repay their legal costs if they were found guilty.
And this release occurred before they pled guilty during a time when there were 'discussions' between the Legal Services Branch and defence council about their clients' ability to pay said legal costs.
Which, to my mind, regardless the legalities, amounts to a prior inducement.
And this, in part, is what I, Paul Willcocks, and others fussed about with former Attorney General Geoff Plant about a month ago.
Fast forward to this past weekend.....
After Gary Mason and Vaughn Palmer wrote columns that returned to this matter in the wake of Mr. Van Dongen's questions, the Ministry of Justice apparently released a statement via Email.
Mr. Palmer described it, and commented on it, thusly:
"Section 18 of the Financial Administration Act did not apply here," it (the Email) said. "That section provides legal authority for forgiveness of existing debts or obligations to government."
Aides David Basi and Bob Virk, in persuading the government to indemnify their legal costs, agreed in writing to repay the full amount "unless they were acquitted on all counts." You might think that was immediately translated into a $6-million debt or obligation when they pleaded guilty.
But here's the rub: "The agreement to remove the repayment conditions was made before Basi and Virk pleaded guilty or were convicted," said Saturday's statement from the Ministry of Justice A matter of days, perhaps only hours, before they made their plea in open court. Nevertheless, technically, it was "before."...
..."For your background," was the way the ministry characterized the email sent to me Saturday. "If you need to attribute it, you can do so to the Ministry of Justice..."
Got all that?
Essentially, what the nebulous/anonymous/faceless 'Ministry of Justice' told Mr. Palmer on the weekend of May 5/6, 2012 just past is that Mess'rs Basi and Virk had been released of the requirement to pay court costs if they pled guilty before they pled guilty.
And with all that set-up, I would now like to return to the letter our concerned reader received from the Ministry of the Attorney General that was dated April 19, 2011 (i.e. over one year ago).
Again, recapping, our concerned reader received that letter after he had first asked the Ministry of Finance a number of detailed questions.
The following is the set-up from that letter:
"...Indemnity coverage of Dave Basi and Bobby Virk's legal expenses was granted under and in accordance with the requirements of the Financial Administration Act and Guarantees and Indemnities Regulation. Under that authority, the then-Deputy Minister of Finance, Tamara Vrooman, set terms and conditions for coverage, which Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk each agreed to.
Among the conditions was that if an indemnified person were convicted, he would become liable to repay the amounts paid on his behalf under the indemnity. His predecessor having imposed that condition, Deputy Minister of Finance Graham Whitmarsh had the authority to amend the indemnities by removing it..."
So far, so good, right?
Essentially, the set-up starts with the same explanation given by Mr. Loukidelis in his statement from six months earlier.
However, the letter writer then changes tack and gets very, very explicit.
Much more explicit than Mr. Loukidelis ever was.
(sorry for all the repetition but this, I truly believe, is very, very important)
"...Among the conditions was that if an indemnified person were convicted, he would become liable to repay the amounts paid on his behalf under the indeminity. His predecessor having imposed that condition, Deputy Minister of Finance Graham Whitmarsh had the authority to amend the indemnities by removing it. He did so before any liability came into being..."
In other words, the letter quoted above states, unequivocally, that the change occurred before Mess'rs Basi and Virk pled guilty, which Mr. Loukidelis' statement, as noted above, indicated was also the time period when their lawyers were in discussions with the Legal Services Branch about legal costs.
To my mind that is the end of the discussion, regardless any and all legal technicalities.
Because no matter how many hairs you split, in my opinion, there was a prior inducement for the accused to plead guilty, even if there were no firm dollar figures attached to said inducement at the time said inducement was made.
Oh, and one more thing.
Who, you might be wondering, actually signed the letter to our concerned reader?
Well, it turns out it was not the nebulous/faceless/anonymous 'Ministry of Justice'.
Instead, it was a real person.
And that real person was then, and still is now, the Assistant Deputy Attorney General of British Columbia, Mr. Richard J.M. Fyfe, Q.C.
However, as we noted this morning, Mr. Fyfe will have a new job on June 16th.
Because that is the day he is slated to replace he who just resigned as Deputy Attorney General, Mr. David Loukidelis.
And just in case you were wondering, the letter was copied to the Honorable Kevin Falcon as well as two other officials with real faces in the Ministry of Finance....
For good measure, our concerned citizen also sent the letter to Auditor General John Doyle...
Ian Reid has more, from Question Period, here....
Paul Willcocks has the bigger picture view, here...
Guess we are all Railgate 'Cultists' now, eh?.....More later....