Two senior members of former West Vancouver police chief Kash Heed's campaign team have been charged, along with a third person, with offenses under the criminal code and the Election Act.
The charges include obstruction charges. During the investigation, according to documents filed in court, one of the accused gave investigators a phone number for a fictitious person named "Jag" and Heed's campaign manager Barinder Sall pretended to be Jag.
No charges have been laid against Heed himself.
- Vancouver-Fraserview constituency brochure — (English version)
"The investigation centred on the production, distribution and financing of three election pamphlets, and included an examination of the election financing report filed on behalf of Kash Heed," said an announcement from the criminal justice branch on the charges approved by special prosecutor Terrence Robertson.
- Vancouver-Fraserview constituency brochure — (Chinese version)
During the election, pamphlets emerged in the Vancouver-Fraserview constituency in both Chinese and English (available in fact boxes to the right) accusing the NDP of supporting death taxes and wanting to legalize drugs and prostitution. Elections B.C. forwarded the pamphlets to the RCMP because they did not meet the election advertising laws requiring a sponsor to be identified with contact information.
At the time, an Elections B.C. official told The Tyee after Heed stepped down as solicitor general and minister responsible for public safety last month citing the investigation, the agency had no idea the brochures involved Heed or his campaign in any way.
Dinesh Khanna, the owner of North American Mailing, is charged under the Election Act for publishing election advertising in early May "that failed to identify the name of the sponsor or, in the case of a candidate, the name of the candidate's financial agent or the financial agent of the registered political party represented by the candidate."
- Criminal Justice Branch statement — This media statement approves the charges
Nor did it give a telephone number or mailing address for the sponsor or financial agent.
On May 7, when an Elections B.C. official, Gregory Macdonald, contacted Khanna about the pamphlet, Khanna gave a false story, the filing said. This prevented Macdonald from performing his duties and exercising his powers under the Election Act.
Then in July, it said, Khanna, "Did tell a false story, including providing a telephone number for a fictitious individual, 'Jag', to constable Kimberly Stark and staff sergeant Bud Bishop, thereby impeding or obstructing an individual performing duties and exercising powers given to the individual under the Election Act."
Campaign manager Sall is also charged with publishing election advertising that didn't meet the legal requirements.
But it also says that between May 7 and 11 he "did impersonate a fictitious individual 'Jag' to [Elections B.C.'s] Gregory Macdonald."
And in July, when police officers investigated, Sall "did fabricate a false story and arranged for that false story to be provided to Constable Kimberly Stark and Staff Sergeant Bud Bishop."
Finally, on or about July 30, Sall "did with intent to defraud Elections B.C., falsify an advertising sponsor disclosure report."
Heed's financial agent, Satpal Johl, was also charged with one count under the Election Act. In August, the court filing said, he "did fail to ensure that all election expenses of the organization or individual for whom he was acting were properly recorded for the purposes of the Election Act."
The maximum penalty for the Election Act offenses is $10,000 and/or one year in jail. For the obsturciton charges, the maximum is 10 years in jail.
No evidence Heed involved
"On the evidence presented to the special prosecutor, there is no evidence that Mr. Heed was either involved in the production of the pamphlets or had direct knowledge of the pamphlets or the allegedly fraudulent [advertising sponsor form]," the annnouncement said.
"There is nothing to show that Kash Heed had any personal knowledge that the election financing report was false," it said.
"In addition, given the facts that give rise to the obstruction charges against Barinder Sall and Dinesh Khanna and the charge of falsification of a document against Barinder Sall, there is no substantial likelihood of conviction of Mr. Heed. In these circumstances, a court would likely find that even with the exercise of reasonable diligence, Kash Heed could not have known about the conduct of Barinder Sall and Dinesh Khanna."
Heed said he was pleased to be exonerated, but surprised and disappointed to learn key members of his campaign team had been charged. "I've said from the start I was confident I did nothing wrong," said Heed, adding that it's up to Premier Gordon Campbell whether or not to reappoint him to cabinet.
Campbell was on a plane to Belgium Monday afternoon and unavailable to reporters.
"The premier should wait until the trial's over before contemplating putting Mr. Heed back in cabinet," said NDP critic Mike Farnworth. "I think it would be wise for the premier to recognize that his government has been tainted enough already."
These are serious charges against two senior members of Heed's campaign team, he said, adding they go "to the heart" of the integrity of the election process.
Heed may still lose his seat if it turns out the brochures should have counted as an election expense and including them pushes the campaign over the spending limit, Farnworth said.
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