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Defence alleges minister may have leaked BC Rail details

VANCOUVER - The defence in the B.C. Legislature raid case alleged Thursday that former B.C. Liberal Deputy Premier Christy Clark may have leaked B.C. Rail information to a lobbyist acting for one of the bidders in the $1 billion sale.

Michael Bolton, acting for David Basi – one of two former provincial ministerial aides facing corruption charges – alleged in B.C. Supreme Court that Clark may have been a cabinet source for Erik Bornmann, a lobbyist for OmniTRAX who is now the key Crown witness in the case.

“Pilothouse internal briefing notes appear to reveal sources in cabinet,” Bolton told Justice Elizabeth Bennett, referring to Bornmann’s lobbying firm. “Bornmann clearly had certain cabinet sources.”

“For example, Christy Clark may have been the source within cabinet – certainly Mr. Bornmann was in contact with Ms. Clark,” Bolton said.

Clark declined to comment on the allegations, which are unproven.

Earlier, Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm turned down a request by Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino to replace Bennett immediately as trial judge on the case because she has been appointed to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

“You have the authority under the Supreme Court Act to appoint a trial judge,” Berardino argued. “I’m asking you to cut through all the potential delay…to move this case forward. Madame Justice Bennett cannot be in two places at once.”

Dohm initially seemed receptive. “Agreed,” he interjected.

Bolton argued against Bennett’s removal, saying the defence has an application in front of her later this month that requests she stay on for the trial because of her three and a half year involvement in lengthy pre-trial hearings.

“This case has been constantly going on,” Bolton said, noting that the defence and Special Prosecutor team have booked off any other cases from September 2009 to January 2010 for an anticipated long trial. “That’s very clever on the part of the defence, because you’re going to require that time,” Dohm responded.

And Dohm said he would make inquiries to see if he can discover any “indications” as to when the Supreme Court of Canada will rule on Berardino’s appeal of two lower BC Court rulings regarding a potential secret witness, saying it would “make my life easier” if the decision were known by the end of June.

But while Dohm rejected Berardino’s request to immediately replace Bennetti, he also appeared to all but say Bennett will be removed soon.

“I know who the trial judge is going to be but I’m not announcing that today,” Dohm said. “You have no concern about who I’ve chosen – they are completely conversant with all Criminal Code matters.”

“I’m not going to muddy the waters further by appointing a second trial judge,” he said.

Bennett has already said she will “remain seized of” – continue to hear - several pre-trial disclosure applications from the defence before possibly exiting the case.

Dohm said that: “It is hoped that the matters before Justice Bennett will be completed or mostly completed by late June.”

The pre-trial hearing continues Friday with a legal application from a lawyer representing Patrick Kinsella, the former B.C. Liberal Party campaign co-chair in 2001 and 2005. Kinsella’s lawyer James Sullivan has objected to defence references to his client in relation to his alleged involvement in the sale of B.C. Rail in 2003.

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor and writes for Vancouver 24 hours. This post first appeared on his blog.

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