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Surprise guilty plea in Basi-Virk trial brings call for public inquiry

(Editor's note: updated at 11:34 p.m. Oct., 18)

The surprise guilty plea Monday of two former B.C. Liberal government ministerial aides to political corruption charges related to the $1 billion B.C. Rail sale suddenly ends a seven-year case that began with a 2003 police raid of the Legislature.

That has the New Democrat opposition demanding a full public inquiry and calling it “outrageous” that David Basi and Bob Virk had their legal fees paid for by the government.

Basi and Virk will serve two years less a day under house arrest under a plea bargain that saw other serious charges dropped.

“Are the taxpayers on the hook for Basi and Virk’s legal bills? If so that’s outrageous,” NDP MLA Leonard Krog said in an interview after sentencing. “If you’re found guilty as a government employee why should the taxpayers pay for your defence?”

But late Monday Attorney General Mike de Jong confirmed that the government has indeed been paying Basi and Virk’s legal fees, will not attempt to get them back and will not hold a public inquiry.

Aneal Basi, a third ex-government aide, was accused of money laundering but had his charges stayed as part of the agreement between Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino and defence lawyers.

David Basi also pled guilty to a separate charge for being paid $50,000 by developers to help remove property near Victoria from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

He was fined a total of $75,695 on all charges – repaying the $50,000 amount and another $25,695 he allegedly received for passing confidential government information on the sale of B.C. Rail to a lobbyist for one of the bidders.

B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie accepted the guilty plea deal, noting that although their crimes were “serious breaches of trust by public officials” Basi and Virk both have no previous criminal record and each has a young family.

Bill Tieleman is a columnist for 24 Hours.

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